Cloud computing is quickly becoming the standard way for technology companies to access IT infrastructure, software and hardware resources. The technology enables companies to be able to use applications and other resources managed by third party companies that are stored in high-end server computers and networks. Cloud computing systems are mainly set up for business or research purposes. In this article, we explore the different types of cloud computing solutions.
Cloud computing helps businesses to be more efficient and save on software and hardware that are important for different operations. The definition of cloud computing varies depending on your source but what is generally agreed is that it involves access of software or hardware that are in the “cloud” i.e. use of software or hardware remotely. If your company is using specialized applications where you did not have to set up server or buy hardware or software to run them, then you are probably using a cloud application.
Companies can use cloud computing to increase their IT functionality or capacity without having to add software, personnel, invest in additional training or set up new infrastructure. Below are the major types of cloud computing:
1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
IaaS is the lowest level of cloud solution and refers to cloud-based computing infrastructure as a fully-outsourced service. An IaaS provider will deliver pre-installed and configured hardware or software through a virtualized interface. What the customers accessing the cloud services do with the service is up to them. Examples of IaaS offerings are managed hosting and development environments.
Benefits of IaaS Solutions
- Reduces total cost of ownership and capital expenditures
- Users pay for the service that they want, on the go
- Access to enterprise-grade IT resources and infrastructure
- Users can scale up and down based on their requirements at any time
2. Platform as a Service (PaaS)
This type of cloud computing is similar to IaaS but is more advanced. With PaaS, apart from simply providing infrastructure, providers also offer a computing platform and solution stack as a service.The IT infrastructure may come with a graphic user interface, run-time system libraries, programming languages or an operating system.
PaaS services are mostly used by companies that need to develop, test, collaborate and deploy cloud solutions for particular applications. However, the hosting of the application is done by a third party i.e. the PaaS provider.
PaaS providers offer a fully configured sandbox and deployment environment for customers to develop, test and deploy their cloud applications. Examples of PaaS solutions include Salesforce.com’s Force.com, Rackspace Cloud Sites, Google App Engine and Microsoft Azure.
Benefits of PaaS Solutions
- Community – Most of the time, many people are involved in building cloud applications in PaaS environments. This creates a strong supportive community that can help your development team along the way.
- No more upgrades – Companies are not required to update or upgrade the infrastructure software. Instead, the PaaS provider handles all upgrades, patches and routine software maintenance.
- Lower cost – Companies face lower risk since they do not have to make upfront investment in hardware and software.
- Simplified deployment – The development team can concentrate on developing the cloud application without having to worry about the testing and deployment infrastructure.
3. Software as a Service (SaaS)
When talking about cloud services, most people think of Software as a Service (SaaS) providers. SaaS providers provide fully functionally web-based applications on demand to customers. The applications are mainly targeted at business users and can include web conferencing, ERP, CRM, email, time management, project tracking among others.
The payment models for SaaS solutions can include subscription based (Salesforce), pay-for-use (WebEx) or free. More examples of companies that offer SaaS solutions include Citrix, NetSuite, and others.
Benefits of SaaS Solutions
- Rapid Scalability
- Accessibility from any location with Internet
- Eliminates infrastructure concerns
- Custom levels of service offerings
- Bundled maintenance and Support
4. Recovery as a Service (RaaS)
According to a Gartner report, 30 percent of midsize companies will have adopted cloud recovery service by 2014. Recovery as a Service (RaaS) solutions helps companies to replace their backup, archiving, disaster recovery and business continuity solutions in a single, integrated platform. RaaS providers protect and can help companies recover entire data centers, servers (OS, applications, configuration and data), and data (files and databases).
RaaS helps businesses to reduce the impact of downtime when disasters happen. RaaS is also referred to as DRaaS ( Disaster Recovery as a Service)
Benefits of RaaS Solutions
- Prevent temporary or permanent loss of critical company data
- Prevents permanent loss of physical infrastructure, including IT infrastructure
- Is a cost-effective way of recovering data
- Enables faster recovery while maintaining accuracy
- Offer greater flexibility on the type of backup required (either primary or secondary backup)
Businesses can benefit from cloud services by improving efficiency and reducing costs. Companies can adopt cloud services based on their priorities, areas of expertise and business processes. Like is the case with an IT project, careful planning and preparation should be done before switching to cloud services.
Advantages of Cloud Services
- It only takes you a few minutes or hours to set up a cloud service application with robust features, which may only cost you a few dollars per seat per month. You can access the cloud service from any computing device attached to the internet including smartphones, tablets and laptops. If you have to access a service, you can do it from anywhere; home, at the airport, at the office, etc.
- Cloud services are also scalable. As your company grows, you can increase your subscription to the resources you need to go in line with your growth. The same is the case when your company’s operations shrink. Most cloud providers have packages that allow customers to choose the level of service they need.
- Finally, companies that adopt cloud services usually benefit from improved efficiency and lower costs. This gives them an edge over their competitors and can help them to quickly gain market share. For start-ups, cloud services can help them to become profitably quickly without risking investments in robust in-house IT infrastructure, hardware or software.
Businesses should research well to understand their exact needs and find providers who offer the solutions that will work for them.