What Is Cloud Computing?
Three types of cloud computing
Cloud computing is a way of delivering technology resources to users from remote hubs. There are three main models of cloud computing, based on the type of resources being delivered. Software as a service (SaaS) is the delivery of fully functional products to end users. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) provides secure network and storage capacity to system administrators. Platform as a service (PaaS) is somewhere in between, giving developers the building blocks to create apps while freeing them from tedious back-end concerns.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
SaaS is the most common type of cloud computing. It delivers complete, user-ready applications over the internet. These typically do not have to be downloaded and installed on each individual user’s computer, saving technical staff lots of time. Maintenance and troubleshooting are handled entirely by the vendor.
Software programs perform specific functions and are generally intuitive to use. Examples include Salesforce’s suite of customer relationship management tools, Microsoft Office 365 products, Google Apps, QuickBooks, Dropbox, Zendesk, and Slack. These are fully functional productivity tools that can be customized to the users’ needs without coding or programming. SaaS provides the greatest amount of customer support.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
IaaS is the most open-ended type of cloud service for organizations that want to do a lot of customization themselves. The greatest benefit of IaaS is extra capacity, which can be accessed on demand for long-term or short-term needs. IaaS makes it possible for tech-savvy businesses to rent enterprise-grade IT resources and infrastructure to keep pace with growth, without requiring large capital investments.
With IaaS, a third party hosts elements of infrastructure, such as hardware, servers, firewalls, and storage capacity. However, users typically bring their own operating systems and middleware. A business that is developing a new software product might choose to use an IaaS provider to create a testing environment before deploying the program in-house. Clients typically access cloud servers through a dashboard or an API. IaaS is fully self-service.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
PaaS provides the building blocks for software creation, including development tools, code libraries, servers, programming environments, and preconfigured app components. With PaaS, the vendor takes care of back-end concerns such as security, infrastructure, and data integration so users can focus on building, hosting, and testing apps faster and at lower cost.
With a platform like Salesforce, resources are standardized and consolidated so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you build a new app. Multiple developers can work on the same project simultaneously. In many cases, people without coding skills can create problem-solving business applications with drag-and-drop page layouts, point-and-click field creation, and customizable reporting dashboards.
Public, private, and hybrid clouds
There are several types of platform services. Every PaaS option is either public, private, or a hybrid mix of the two.
- Public PaaS is hosted in the cloud, and its infrastructure is managed by the provider.
- Private PaaS, on the other hand, is housed in onsite servers or private networks and is maintained by the user.
- Hybrid PaaS uses elements from both public and private, and is capable of executing applications from multiple cloud infrastructures.
PaaS can be further categorized depending on whether it is open or closed source, whether it is mobile compatible (mPaaS), and what business types it caters to. Businesses are taking advantage of new PaaS capabilities to further outsource tasks that would have otherwise relied on local solutions. This is all made possible through advances in cloud computing.
When choosing a PaaS solution, the most important considerations beyond how it is hosted are how well it integrates with existing information systems, which programming languages it supports, what application-building tools it offers, how customizable or configurable it is, and how effectively it is supported by the provider.