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Demystifying the Cloud: What is Cloud Computing?

Demystifying the Cloud: What is Cloud Computing?

There’s been continual buzz about the Cloud as a technological game changer. The Cloud will allow you to access what you need when you need it! Cloud hosting will save your business money! The Cloud will transform business as we know it!

No doubt, Cloud Computing can be useful. But let’s move beyond the hype. What exactly is the Cloud? What does it do? What doesn’t it do?


What is the Cloud?

When we talk about the Cloud, we often mean cloud computing — the type of solution found in our Top 10 Cloud Hosting report. Cloud computing can be thought of as a utility that delivers computing resources, software, and other information via a network—in most cases the Internet. What do I mean by utility? Think of electricity. You get electricity by plugging a device into an outlet, but you yourself don’t generate the electricity or maintain it. All you have to do is connect.

Cloud computing works on the same principle. By connecting to the Internet, you can access any data that you’ve stored in a virtual server. Rather than maintaining a physical datacenter with multiple servers, companies can outsource their server needs to cloud providers, who bear the responsibility of maintaining, repairing, and providing reliable service. This, in turn, allows businesses to reallocate their resources towards other business ventures.

What Does the Cloud Do?

There are three basic types of cloud computing services:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS): a software application accessed via a web browser. Google Docs or any web-based email service is an example of a SaaS application.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): virtual machines, networks, firewalls, load balancers, and other such resources that are accessed on demand and stored in outsourced data centers.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): software development platforms and related resources, such as operating systems and programming languages, that are stored in the Cloud and accessed via a web browser. PaaS offerings free developers from the burden of buying, managing, and maintaining hardware and software.

What Doesn’t the Cloud Do?

The Cloud does not necessarily replace on-premise infrastructure. Many companies with complex infrastructures may feel more comfortable keeping everything in-house. And other businesses that must meet compliance standards, such as HIPAA or PCI, may be obligated to keep their data within their own firewalls.

The Cloud is more than just a buzzword. It can enable businesses to considerably cut costs while maintaining efficiency. But, the Cloud does not necessarily signal the end of on-premise applications or infrastructure.

Is your business jumping aboard the Cloud bandwagon? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

Want to know more about Cloud Computing? For additional reading materials such as articles, blogs and software reviews, visit’s  cloud computing resource page.

  • Consultant

Darlene Lin

Web Contributor,
Expert in CRM, Social, ITSM/IT Help Desk, and ERP
Darlene is a web contributor, specializing in the CRM, Social, IT Management and ERP segments. She has several years of experience covering the software technology world, writing about the latest companies and trends and interviewing the founders of emerging and ...
  • Allison Calhoun

    So how would you mix an on-premise infrastructure with cloud systems? It seems like every company out there wants you to move everything to the cloud, but what if you can’t? Does anyone offer mixed cloud/on-premise services?

    • darlenelin

      Hi Allison,

      Thanks for the comment. One of the great things about the Cloud is its flexibility. Companies can deploy a “private cloud,” which is a cloud infrastructure that is used by only one organization and implemented within that organization’s firewall. This keeps all data “on-premise,” so to speak.

      Most cloud hosting providers will offer the option of a private cloud infrastruture to companies who are worried about security issues or face regulatory compliance standards. Most of the well-known providers, like Amazon Web Services, typically have a private cloud option.

  • Sherman Hsieh

    Darlene, I think you are missing the point that Allison is making. She’s asking whether companies offer a mixed solution that can satisfy cloud/onpremise needs.

    Allison, what you need to look at are cloud middleware solutions that can integrate in-house systems to cloud systems. Here are some cloud integration platforms you can consider:

    Windows Azure AppFabric
    Boomi  AtomSphere
    Cast Iron OmniConnect
    Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS)
    Google App Engine for Business
    Mule iON