All the cool kids at the water cooler seem to have one phrase on the tip of their tongue: the cloud. Everybody is talking about the cloud. However, thanks to various advances in cloud computing, not everyone is referring to the same thing when they reference the cloud.
Essentially, anytime someone mentions the cloud, they are referencing computing that exists as a service rather than as a product. Instead of a bulky disk that downloads a program onto their computer, cloud computing exists outside of their computer. The resources, software, or information that are provided as part of the cloud exist on a grid or network, which in most cases is the Internet. When companies use the cloud, they can expand their capacity and functions without having to add any extra infrastructure, hire any extra staff or purchase any software. For instance, if a company needs to engineer a large-scale project, they no longer have to waste weeks planning to buy new servers or other equipment. Instead, they can simply sign onto a cloud computing service that offers them this functionality without requiring them to spend piles of cash.
When many people think of cloud computing, they immediately think of the cloud services offered by Amazon or other big names in the industry; unfortunately, a relationship with any of these companies can be costly whereas a relationship with a smaller company may be just as effective or even more effective for less money.
Although most people are referencing the same set of advantages and the same general ideas when they refer to the cloud, there are several different forms of this emerging technology.
Six Types of Cloud Computing
- Web-based clouds. With the right web based service, business owners can avoid using expensive applications that may require a lot of space on their computers. Instead, they can perform the same functions from a web-based program. For example, they can use an API for something as ubiquitous as Google Maps, or they can use a mash-up of various programs so that they can perform routine tasks like payroll or payment processing easily and efficiently.
- SaaS (Software as a Service). This allows multiple users to access the same web based software from their own browsers.
- PaaS (Platform as a Service). This layer of cloud computing allows businesses to run a stack of tailored applications on the cloud’s infrastructure without purchasing the software or servers that would have been necessary to run these applications a few years ago.
- Utility cloud services. Instead of employing a host of geeks to add memory here and there, businesses can now safely and easily store heaps of data on the cloud using the cloud’s utility services.
- Managed services. Businesses have been using this version of cloud computing since years before the phrase was ever used commonly. In this version, the cloud provider rather than the business employees uses the application. Managed services are commonly used for things like anti-spam services that many business owners find useful to outsource.
- Service commerce. A combination of SaaS and Managed Services, service commerce cloud computing gives the end-user access to a number of services from a single application. These applications act like personal assistants, and they can do almost anything for a company from helping them to track their expenses to helping them to organize their payroll.
These six iterations of cloud computing are just fractions of what cloud computing is capable of. As the technology continues to emerge, new ideas will come into play, and the types of cloud services that providers can offer will continue to expand and evolve.
With so many cloud-computing options, more and more business owners are looking to the cloud for their particular needs, and they have many different providers that they can opt to work with. There are companies like Amazon that have massive, sprawling cloud servers for enterprise businesses. For companies and individuals looking for an Amazon alternative, there are many smaller cloud service providers that offer the same services for lower rates.