Cloud computing uses the web, shared resources, and shared software to allow users ease and flexibility when accessing data and programs. People have been using cloud computing for years without knowing it, such as web-based e-mail and video services. Businesses and other organizations are also thinking of using cloud computing applications or already have begun to move to them. Most cloud computing applications fall into three main categories: infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, or software as a service.
Cloud computing applications have been used around the world for some time. One of the more common cloud computing applications in use is free, web-based e-mail. Computer users also tap into a public cloud when using instant-messaging and video-messaging services, as well as voice-over-IP. Data-backup services allow users to store files on a public or private cloud in cyberspace. There are also client and sales-force management services for businesses.
Cloud computing applications fall into three main categories. The first category is called infrastructure as a service. This information technology allows businesses and other large organizations to set up a virtual data center in a public or a private cloud. The two best examples of this are Amazon's Simple Storage Service and Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2. Other similar storage and virtual infrastructure services are provided by global computing companies and telecom providers.
The second category is called platform as a service. In this system, the cloud provides a virtual server system that can replace the traditional hardware server and desktops with operating systems, processors, and memory. Essentially, users can then access their personal or business files and applications anywhere from any computing device using these cloud computing applications. One of the more popular examples of this type of cloud application is Azure™ from Microsoft®.
Software as a service is perhaps the most common group of cloud computing applications. Traditional software needs to be downloaded onto a desktop or laptop. It runs only on the computers that have downloaded it. Cloud computing applications, however, exist in the cloud. There is no need to download the application, and full functionality is available for any user on any device with access via the web. Some common examples of these types of programs are any online e-mail service or instant messaging.
For individual users and organizations, cloud computing applications provide valuable benefits. They allow them to access and pay for the exact amount of computing power and data storage capacity that they need. Cloud computing also encourages mobility and requires fewer resources in house.