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How Cloud Computing Works

Plain English

First, one must understand what the “cloud” is.  The “cloud” is really just a metaphor for a network such as the internet.  Next, different services, such as storage and applications, are distributed to an organization via the “cloud”.  So instead of storing all your information on your own personal computer or database, it is stored in a remote database that you do not have to run.  In order to use this service, a user would log into the “cloud” most likely with a username and password, then the user is given access to all their information and data that they have stored within the “cloud”.  This also includes applications that are within the “cloud”.  These applications require no installation; all you need is a computer with internet access and a web browser.  A prime example of this technology is Gmail; all you need is the internet to access your email.

Technical Terms

Cloud computing is the use of remote data centers in order to store/maintain data and applications.  Information is retrieved through connecting to these data centers via the internet.  All the users get the benefit of the information stored on these remote data centers without actually having to install/store the actual information or application onto their own device.  The end user requires no knowledge of the location of these data centers.  The end user/ company using the service provided by the company hosting these data centers must pay the hosting company a fee usually at the end of the month usually based off how much storage space they used, it’s useful to think of the fee’s that are paid like an electricity bill.  The amount of electricity used by the end user is monitored by the hosting company and then the end user is sent a bill at the end of the month.  This is how cloud computing bills/fees are handled too.

There are 3 main service methods for cloud computing.  Meaning that cloud computing providers usually offer their services in one of 3 different ways; Infrastructure as a service (Iaas), Platform as a service (Paas), and Software as a Service (Saas).  Iaas is sometimes referred to as Hardware as a service, this just means that the service provider is providing storage, hardware, servers and networking components used in cloud computing.  Platform as a service providers offer customers the opportunity to rent servers and services related to developing and testing new applications or just running other applications.  This includes web servers, databases, and developmental tools.  Overall, Platform as a service providers offer a computing platform that include all the above.  Software as a service may be what most people are familiar with; applications are hosted and made available to customer over a network.  A prime example of this is Google apps.

There are several deployment methods that are used in cloud computing:

Public Cloud – all information and application is open to the general public
Community Cloud – information and applications are available to only a select few businesses or companies, forming a “community”
Private Cloud – everything is available only to a single company, usually these servers are managed internally, so the benefits of cloud computing are not as great for small private clouds
Hybrid Cloud – a combination of any of the above 3 methods, one important part of a hybrid cloud is called Bursting.  Bursting is allowing a private cloud to “burst” onto a public cloud when more storage or processing power is needed

Currently, since cloud computing is such a new and booming technology, there really is no set of standards or protocols that companies use unanimously.  That being said, there are huge efforts by standardization organizations to bring this under control.  Most businesses are left to themselves to decide what type of standards they use.  This can lead to a large number of problems.  Providers do not have a standard API; so most of the APIs out there are unique and not interoperable or interchangeable.

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