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What is Cloud Computing?

Illustration of cloud computing uploads and downloads

Cloud 101: A beginner’s guide to cloud computing technology

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What is cloud computing? Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of applications, platforms, data storage, operating systems, and other computing resources over the Internet instead of over on-premise infrastructure.
With cloud, companies don’t need to make large upfront investments in hardware or IT staff. Instead, they can subscribe to the computing resources they need, access them almost instantly, and only pay for what they use.

Benefits of cloud computing

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Scale up or down quickly to meet fluctuating workload requirements


Only pay for what you use, and minimise hardware and IT costs


Get 24/7 cloud system access from anywhere, on any device


Improve compliance, protect data, and mitigate risk with continuous security updates


Rapidly adopt new technologies to innovate faster while simplifying IT’s role


Set-up and react quickly to changing market conditions and business needs

Types of cloud computing services

Cloud computing is divided into three main service categories: SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS. Some providers combine these services – and others offer them independent of each other.
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Illustration of software being delivered via SaaS

What is SaaS?

With SaaS (software-as-a-service), software is hosted on a remote server and customers can access it anytime, anywhere, from a Web browser or API. The SaaS provider takes care of backups, maintenance, and updates.

Illustration of cloud software platform

What is PaaS?

Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) is a cloud-based, application development environment that provides developers with everything they need to build and deploy apps. With PaaS, developers can choose the features and cloud services they want on a subscription or pay-per-use basis.

Image of files sitting in a cloud

What is IaaS?

Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) lets companies “rent” computing resources such as servers, networks, storage, and operating systems on a pay-per-use basis. The infrastructure scales – and customers don’t have to invest in the hardware.

IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

Compare SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS and find out what you can expect from each “as-a-service” model. Most companies now use a mix of the three – and the lines between them can sometimes blur.
Pricing options

Who uses it Business users Developers System admins
What you get Software Development platform Computing resources
Purpose To complete business tasks To build and deploy applications To access storage, networking, servers, and other infrastructure online
Provider controls Apps, data, runtime, middleware, O/S, virtualisation, servers, storage, networking Runtime, middleware, O/S, virtualisation, servers, storage, networking Virtualisation, servers, storage, networking
Customer controls N/A – everything is managed by the provider Apps, data Apps, data, runtime, middleware, O/S

Types of cloud deployment

There are three different types of cloud deployment: public, private, and hybrid. Many companies choose more than one approach and set up a multi-cloud environment.
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Public cloud computing

Public cloud

With a public cloud, services are delivered to customers over a network that’s open for public usage. Public clouds offer efficiency and affordability and are often multi-tenant – meaning the provider runs your service in a shared environment
Private cloud computing

Private cloud

With a private cloud, services are maintained on a private network protected by a firewall. You can build a private cloud within your own data centre – or subscribe to one hosted by a vendor. Private clouds offer the most security and control.
Hybrid cloud computing

Hybrid cloud

A hybrid cloud is a combination of public cloud, private cloud, and on-premise infrastructure. Hybrid clouds let you keep sensitive information in a traditional data centre or private cloud, while taking advantage of public cloud resources.

Public vs. private vs. hybrid cloud

Compare the three different types of cloud deployments to find out which would work best for your company.
Pricing options

Public cloud
Private cloud
Hybrid cloud
Environment Publicly-shared computing resources Private computing resources Mix of public and private resources
Auto-scaling High Can be limited High
Security Good – but depends on security of the vendor Most secure – all data stored in private data centre Very secure – sensitive data stored in private data centre
Reliability Medium – depends on Internet connectivity and service provider availability High – all equipment on premise or hosted by dedicated private cloud provider Medium to high – some dependency on service provider
Cost Low – pay-as-you-go model and no need for on-premise storage and infrastructure Moderate to high – can require on-premise resources such as a datacenter, electricity, and IT staff Moderate – mix of pay-as-you-go model and on-premise resources
Who is it for? Companies that want to take advantage of the latest SaaS apps and elastic IaaS while keeping costs low Government agencies, healthcare providers, banks, and any business that handles a lot of sensitive data Companies that want to keep critical apps and data private – and still use public cloud services

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