Cloudy With a Chance of Efficiency: Beginner’s Guide to Cloud Computing

It seems that every technophile with a blogging platform is talking about some new cloud-based service. Whether it’s a basic online cloud backup service or an extensive cloud-based server system, new services are popping up all over the place. For the average business owner looking to leverage the benefits of the cloud, this is good news. Not just because of the efficiency that comes with moving data and customer management to the cloud. While cloud services offer a great deal of improved performance and reduced IT budgets, there still remains concerns over cloud security. This became apparent with the recent Wikileaks related attacks on the likes of Amazon and PayPal in 2010.

Still, it’s hard to ignore the usefulness of leveraging cloud services for business. If you’re not familiar with what’s available, it will serve you well to familiarize yourself with the four types of cloud computing technologies available. All cloud services are broken down into four different categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Desktop-as-a-Service. Depending on your server needs, renting space in a data center can easily add up to thousands of dollars in rental fees each year.

Source: http://cloudcomputingleaders.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/cloud-computing.jpg

IaaS is perhaps the most advanced cloud computing deployment method. Basically, IaaS serves as a virtual server that can be accessed online. IaaS systems are typically accessed and developed in a server virtualization platform. From a business perspective, outsourcing an IaaS virtual server costs only a fraction of the cost of renting server rack space at a data center.

If you’re new to cloud computing, and have done a Wikipedia search on PaaS, you may have ended up more confused than when you started. Most definitions of PaaS leave the layman business person with a bunch of buzzwords and tech-speak that are indiscernible at best. PaaS is essentially a powerful virtual computing environment for business and enterprises. It has found other uses, but without getting too technical, cloud-based platform services offer a wide range computing power, data storage and networking infrastructure for enterprise. Some common examples of the PaaS model include Google Apps, SalesForce and Microsoft’s Azure Platform services.

SaaS is perhaps among the most popular of the cloud computing platforms. Sometimes referred to as on-demand software, SaaS computing applications are typically accessed from a specific website that is primarily hosted from a single or set of websites. This allows users to access software without having to download the application onto a physical hard drive. One of the most popular examples of SaaS is Amazon’s Web Services or S3 application that offers cloud-based subscription hosting services.

DaaS, sometimes referred to as Virtual PC or Parallel desktop, is pretty self explanatory. Basically, the service allows you to have multiple operating systems on a single machine. The main attraction to this type of service is that the SaaS system take up virtually no physical hard drive space. It is not uncommon for a single machine to run Linux, OS X, Windows 7 and Ubuntu simultaneously, and without the need for massive storage space.

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