Many people are confused as to exactly what cloud computing is, especially as the term can be used to define almost anything. Roughly, it describes highly scalable computing resources provided as an external service via the internet on a pay-as-you-go basis. Financially, the main appeal of cloud computing is that customers only use what they need, and only pay for what they actually use.

What does the cloud architecture include?

The cloud architecture can be visualized as a pyramid consisting of three sections:

Cloud Application
This is the apex of the cloud pyramid, where applications are run and interacted with via a web browser, hosted desktop or remote client.  A cloud application eliminates the need to install and run the application on the customer’s own computer, thus removing the burden of software maintenance, ongoing operation and support.

Cloud Platform
The middle layer of the cloud pyramid, which provides a framework as a service. A cloud computing platform dynamically provisions, configures, reconfigures and de-provisions servers as needed to cope with increases or decreases in demand.

Cloud Infrastructure
The foundation of the cloud pyramid is the delivery of IT infrastructure through virtualization. Virtualization allows the splitting of a single physical piece of hardware into independent, self-governed environments, which can be scaled in terms of CPU, RAM, Disk and other elements.

Types of Cloud Computing

Public Cloud Computing
Public cloud (also referred to as ‘external’ cloud) describes the conventional meaning of cloud computing: scalable, dynamically provisioned, often virtualized resources available over the Internet from an off-site third-party provider, which divides up resources and bills its customers on a ‘utility’ basis.

Private Cloud Computing
Private cloud (also referred to as ‘corporate’ or ‘internal’ cloud) is a term used to denote an internal, proprietary computing virtualization architecture providing hosted services on a private network.

Hybrid Cloud Computing
It has been suggested that a hybrid cloud environment combining resources from both internal and external providers will become the most popular choice for enterprises. For example, a company could choose to use a public cloud service for general computing, but store its critical data within its own data center.

What services can be used in the Cloud?

Here are some brief descriptions of a few of the most popular cloud-based IT solutions:

Hosted Desktops
Hosted desktops remove the need for traditional desktop PCs in the office environment, and reduce the cost of providing the services that you need. A hosted desktop looks and behaves like a regular desktop PC, but the software and data customers use are housed in remote, highly secure data centers, rather than on their own machines.

Hosted Email
As more organizations look for a secure, reliable email solution that will not cost the earth, they are increasingly turning to hosted Microsoft Exchange® email plans. Email is stored centrally on managed servers, providing redundancy and fast connectivity from any location.

Hosted Telephony (VoIP)
VoIP (Voice over IP) is a means of carrying phone calls and services across digital internet networks. A hosted VoIP system replaces expensive phone systems, installation, handsets, BT lines and numbers with a simple, cost-efficient alternative that is available to use on a monthly subscription basis.

Dynamic Servers
Dynamic servers are the next generation of server environment, replacing the conventional concept of the dedicated server. Providers give their customers access to resources that look and feel exactly like a dedicated server, but that are fully scalable. You can directly control the amount of processing power and space you use, meaning you don’t have to pay for hardware you don’t need.

What Next?

In the next article, we will ask, Why switch from traditional IT to the cloud?

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