Cloud Computing And Hosted Services: A Closer Look The word “cloud” is thrown around a lot these days and is often used to describe the hosting of IT infrastructure, data, and applications within a data center. But, what’s the real definition? Cloud Computing Defined According to the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST), “Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.” The essential characteristics of cloud computing are: On-demand self-service. A consumer can unilaterally turn on computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider. Broad network access. Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through mobile phones, tablets, laptops and workstations. Resource pooling. The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using different physical and virtual resources according to consumer demand. There is a sense of location independence in that the customer generally has no control or knowledge over the exact location of the provided resources but may be able to specify location (e.g., country, state or datacenter). Examples of resources include storage, processing, memory and network bandwidth. Rapid elasticity. Capabilities can be elastically turned on or off, in some cases automatically, to scale rapidly to meet demand. To the consumer, the scalability often appears to be unlimited and can be appropriated in any quantity at any time. Measured service. Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by metering storage, processing, bandwidth and active user accounts. Resource usage can be monitored, controlled and reported, providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service. Cloud Platforms Now that we know what cloud computing is, let’s define the different types of cloud platforms. Software as a Service (SaaS) Do you have a Gmail? Then you’re utilizing a SaaS. SaaS is a hosted application made available over the internet, allowing you to use the software without having to deal with all the back-end work. Popular SaaS applications include Netflix®, Salesforce®, and Gmail®. Platform as a Service (PaaS) PaaS gives you a platform, allowing you to develop, test, and manage your applications. Think of it like your own operating system, where you manage your applications and your data. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) Companies that don’t want to build and maintain a data center can turn to IaaS offerings. IaaS providers give you virtualized hardware that’s already configured and ready to use, and expansion (or contraction) is easily accomplished, with no costs incurred until the additional capacity is needed. IaaS providers typically handle the storage, servers, networking, and virtualization, and you manage the operating system, security, and applications. Cloud Services Increase Efficiency With cloud and hosted services, the hosting provider takes care of all the technology-related issues. The business not only leverages the infrastructure, it also pays the host to manage it. Cloud and hosted services enable businesses to reduce IT costs while increasing the efficiency, utilization, and flexibility of their existing computer hardware. Hosted services may include hosted virtual desktops, hosted virtual servers, hosted exchange email, online backup and disaster recovery, and hosted VoIP. For the business, it makes moving locations, adding new offices, or adding new employees much easier; IT resources aren’t tied to a specific location and services can be delivered to any device. Another major benefit is the fact that business continuity is built in. Since IT resources are not located at a company location, any disaster or disruptive event at the company doesn’t stop the business from operating. A simple power outage is overcome by sending employees offsite to other locations, coffee shops, or their own homes to continue working. Businesses owners like the cloud because of the focus it offers. The shifting of non-critical—albeit important—IT functions to an outside provider frees up internal resources to focus on the organization’s core business. You can accomplish more when not being distracted by the maintenance, support, and security of your IT systems. Leveraging cloud services help with scalability and office moves, and are a worthwhile investment if your organization is looking to update technology and become more mobile. Can your organization benefit from cloud services? Scott Hardee Scott Hardee is a Business Solutions Manager at Aureon Technology. Scott's focused on figuring out what his clients issues are and working together to overcome those hurdles to provide the right solutions. With a focus on healthcare, CPA's, nonprofits/charity, and general small to medium-sized business, he's always working to build long-term relationships to help make the ever-changing world of IT easier to handle for his team and his clients. Aureon Technology provides end to end IT and communications solutions and has locations throughout the Midwest, including Des Moines, Omaha, and Kansas City.