Get your head out of the clouds cloud computing explained

Cloud computing is by definition a way of using a network of remote servers hosted on the internet.  These servers can be used to store, manage and process data.  Almost everyone today has some form of cloud computing they use in their daily lives.

Microsoft, google and apple both have a form of free cloud computing to offer their users.  Google has google drive which when installed also gives you access to their word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software. Microsoft gives you the one drive which comes with a set amount of storage space.  Apple has iCloud for its apple users.

A huge advantage to the cloud is how scalable the services are.  Cloud services you use today might not be right tomorrow.  Scalability allows you, in some cases for a fee, to purchase more space or services as required. Not only does this allow you to upgrade your storage, but gives you access to more processing power when needed.

This scalability in cloud is referred to as cloud elasticity.  Cloud elasticity is when the services need more power  and the cloud gives you more power. However when the increase is no longer required your services are automatically downgraded to your original.  The month your services increased you will be billed for the bit extra required.

In the beginning of technology all resources would be on handled on site.  To upgrade someone would physically have to either go to the PC shop, or order in the components.

There are many disadvantage to this there would have to be a specialist person on site to manage the hardware.  Technical support for the operating systems that need running.  This might include specialist training and extra costs.

Cloud gives you the potential to move all your services from in house to the cloud.  Below is a graphic to display the shift from on site to the different models of cloud services.

Cloud computing how it works

On Site

What you are responsible for looking after either at your home, or in the work place.


IAAS, or infrastructure as a service, is a cloud model where a third party hosts the hardware used.  This would including storage, or firewall among other things.  This service is often payed by a consumption model e.g. like a utility bill.  Users get an infrastructure on top of which you can install whatever you want.  The user is then responsible for any updates required to the software/applications they install.

Features of a IAAS
  • Scalability
  • No investment in hardware
  • Utility style costing
  • Location Independence
  • Physical security of data centre locations
  • No single point of failure


PAAS, or Platform As A Service, cloud models are used for applications and other development.  This incorporates on top of IAAS the inclusion of a software operating system.  This allows the third party who hosts the PAAS to manage the operating systems, virtualisation, servers, storage and networking.  This allows for enterprises to develop software on top of the cloud at a cost effect price tag.

Features of a PAAS:
  • Operating System
  • Server-side scripting environment
  • Database management system
  • Server Software
  • Support
  • Storage
  • Network Access
  • Tools for design and development
  • Hosting


SAAS, or Systems As A Service, cloud model is the largest market and expanding fast.  All services are managed by the third party vendor. SaaS applications are usually run directly from the web browser.  This is useful to large scale installations were each machine in turn would need specialist software installed.   All users have to do is launch a web browser and access the software through there with no installation involved.

Features of SAAS
  • No additional hardware costs
  • No initial setup costs
  • Pay for what you use
  • Usage is scalable
  • Updates are automated
  • Cross device compatibility
  • Accessible from any location

In conclusion the cloud is a service you can purchase from most big technology companies.  Not just offering storage space, but the ability to buy servers install your software on.

For home use this might still be expensive in comparison.  A terabyte of hard disk space cost potentially £90+ per year.  The equivalent in house hard drive not costing much more than £40 to own and keep.  Companies are now offering subscription services that offer free cloud storage, usually 2 – 5 GB.  However the more services you purchase you get a free upgrade of storage.

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