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WHAT IS CLOUD COMPUTING?

Updated on November 17, 2012

A USER GUID TO CLOUD COMPUTING(DISCUSSING DESIGN PAAS AND USE OF CLOUD COMPUTER AND HOST,HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS)

Introduction

If you are even a basic computer user, it is likely that you have already used some form of cloud computing service. Any entirely online service you use, be it e-mail, file storage or sharing, or even media streaming, uses cloud computing technology. If you have used any service that doesn’t require you to download and install specifi c software or store any data locally, you have used the cloud.

Cloud computing allows you to keep your PC and all of your mobile devices in sync all the time. You can access all of your personal data at any given moment, you can organize and collect data from any online source, and you can even share photos, videos, music, contacts, e-mail, documents, etc. with your friends, family, and coworkers in an instant. In essence, personal cloud computing gives you easy and quick access to all your data, making it instantly accessible and mobile.

Social networks, file sharing servers and Webaccessible software take advantage of resources provided by cloud computing to give you a lightweight structure for your personal computing needs. Cloud services give you options to protect your data with accessibility and privacy settings for your accounts, enabling you to store your life on a remote server without having to worry about storage space constraints or software installations.

YOUR PERSONAL CLOUD

Storage space and processing power are the biggest hurdles that mobile devices like smartphones and tablets face today. Cloud computing has come to the forefront as it overcomes these hurdles, enabling you to access and edit your files and files uploaded by other users without the need for excessive hardware and support. Browser-based email and cloud services such as Grooveshark, Facebook, Google Docs and Youtube have smartphone and tablet extensions, designed specifically to run on the lower hardware specifications of such devices.

Operating systems of today like Android, iOS and Windows 7 are also made compatible with mobile devices and equipped with applications that let you sync and access data across devices via their cloud servers. Apart from storage, developers have also used cloud computing capabilities to develop Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Webtop services to make your computing experience completely mobile.

SOFTWARE AS A SERVICE (SAAS)

Web accessible software enables users to use programs or applications without having to download or install them on their machines. You can access data hosted by companies on their cloud servers for almost any task, like word processing, designing or even media editing. This enables users to carry out their work without having to purchase software that can be installed and run only on a single machine. You no longer need to worry about expiration dates, downloading updates or installing software on multiple machines. SaaS reduces the user’s expenses by allowing you to ‘rent’ a service and use only specific features rather than buying complete packages of programs, some of which you might not use. For instance, to use Microsoft Word, a user must purchase the Microsoft Office Suite, which gives you Word bundled with Excel, Powerpoint, etc. These packages can be fairly expensive. Instead, you can use a SaaS product that allows you to sign up for free or a monthly fee and lets you perform your word processing tasks without any installations on your machine’s local drive.

UTILITY COMPUTING

Utility computing is a form of cloud computing that is more robust at an enterprise level. Large companies can ‘rent out’ their hardware support via the cloud to clients based on their requirements, maximizing the utility of the host server and reducing the costs to the client. Companies like Amazon. com, Microsoft and Sun offer storage and virtual servers to clients for their computing needs using the cloud. This drastically reduces the investment required for small scale businesses as they no longer need to purchase hardware. Instead, they pay only for what they need and utilize the computing strength of the host via the cloud.

PLATFORM AS A SERVICE (PAAS)

PaaS is a form of SaaS that provides development environments as a service. Rather than designing software for the customers to use, companies provide clients with the infrastructure required to design and run software specific to their needs. Clients can then use this infrastructure and develop software applications for their use that run on the host’s cloud servers. This form of cloud computing gives the clients the freedom to develop software to suit their requirements without having to worry about the hardware. PaaS provides clients with facilities for designing and developing applications, hosting their applications as well as hardware for scalability and storage.

ONLINE STORAGE

Online storage allows users to upload files and information to cloud servers so that the data can be accessed from multiple machines remotely, as long as they have access to the Internet. Online storage has grown rapidly in recent times due to the increased speeds in data transfer and improved security for protecting this data. The service is very useful for users restricted by lack of storage space or users that wish to access their data from multiple machines or on-the-go. Using cloud storage services can also be beneficial as a backup for locally saved data in the event that your local drive is compromised by viral infection, online threats or physical damage. There are several services to choose from, ranging in size of storage space and you can also use paid services for greater storage space and better security. Some storage services also enable you to sync data across devices so that files added to one device are automatically uploaded to the cloud, and in some cases, even downloaded to other synced machines.

THE CLOUD ARCHITECTURE

The cloud computing system can be divided into two distinct sections. At the front end, there is the user, who can access the cloud server and includes their machine and any application required to access the cloud. The back end is the hardware that makes up the cloud, which includes computers, servers and data storage systems that can be accessed by the users. Cloud systems use middleware, which is software that communicates with various users connected to a single cloud server. It monitors the system, managing traffic and client demands to ensure that everything runs smoothly and efficiently.

THE CLOUD BENIFITS

The advantages of cloud computing are fairly obvious. Users have access to their applications and data from anywhere at any time and they can access their information from multiple machines; their data and software is no longer confined to a single machine. Cloud computing also brings down hardware costs, as users no longer need to purchase the fastest computers with high end configurations. The cloud system handles the load for you. Essentially, all you need is a basic computer, input devices and an Internet connection to access the cloud services. Cloud storage enables users to create backups of their data so if their machines crash, they no longer need to worry about data loss. Cloud servers can sometimes be a safer option for protecting your data from viral infection or damage due to the vast amount of online threats and viruses circulating on the Internet.

THE CLOUD CONCERNS

The biggest concerns about cloud computing are security and privacy. Users might not be comfortable handing over their data to a third party. This is an even greater concern when it comes to companies that wish to keep their sensitive information on cloud servers. While most service vendors would ensure that their servers are kept free from viral infection and malware, it is still a concern considering the fact that a number of users from around the world are accessing the server. Privacy is another issue with cloud servers. Ensuring that a client’s data is not accessed by any unauthorized users is of great importance for any cloud service. To make their servers more secure, cloud service vendors have developed password protected accounts, security servers through which all data being transferred must pass and data encryption techniques. After all, the success of a cloud service depends on its reputation, and any sign of a security breach would result in a loss of clients and business.

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