Since its inception, cloud computing has taken the IT world by storm, offering a secure, scalable, and reliable alternative to on-premises data storage and processing infrastructure.
However, like any other new technology, the more knowledge IT professionals have of cloud computing, the more benefits they can derive from it. To better help you understand and take advantage of cloud computing, we put together a list of cloud computing characteristics and why they are critical.
And since the term “cloud nine” means a state of bliss, it’s appropriate that we list the nine significant cloud computing characteristics. After all, cloud computing’s benefits are enough to make any IT professional happy, so there’s symmetry!
Let’s begin with a brief introduction to cloud computing and work our way deeper into the characteristics.
An Introduction to Cloud Computing
Google the phrase “cloud computing definition,” and you will get dozens of results, each with a slightly different take on the concept. We’re about to make it “dozens plus one” as we provide our definition.
Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of computer system resources and services, including databases, analytics, intelligence, networking, servers, software, and storage, instead of a local server or on-premises computer system. IT resources traditionally located in a data center in the company’s building are now supplied off-site by a third-party cloud provider.
Cloud computing resolves issues such as scalability, security, cost-effectiveness, and keeping up with new technology. If you’ve ever encountered acronyms like SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS, you were reading cloud-based services.
In 1999, cloud computing started attracting attention and mainstream acceptance thanks to Salesforce, a popular SaaS application providing enterprise-level CRM software to users. Since then, cloud computing is now a widely-accepted, rapidly growing industry, slated to exceed USD 800 billion by 2025.
Speaking of those acronyms, here are the three most popular services:
- IaaS - Infrastructure as a Service. Companies can lease or rent off-site servers for data storage and processing.
- PaaS- Platform as a Service. A complete development and deployment system lets developers create, run, and manage everything from essential cloud-based apps to complicated, enterprise-level applications.
- SaaS- Software as a Service. A delivery and licensing model that delivers software via subscriptions, such as Salesforce, as mentioned above.
You can also find CaaS (Communications as a Service), MaaS (Monitoring as a Service), NaaS (Network as a Service), and another SaaS, this one meaning Storage as a Service.
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The Definitive List of Nine Essential Cloud Computing Characteristics
These are the top nine cloud computing characteristics to keep in mind when choosing which platform to use. This information is the key to making an informed, savvy choice, which in turn increases the likelihood of a suitable cloud fit for you and your organization.
So, here’s your ticket to “Cloud Nine!”
The digital world moves fast, and IT teams need to keep pace. Furthermore, people enjoy having the flexibility to change things at their whim without contacting a go-between first. On-demand self-service means the customer can provision cloud resources (e.g., virtual machine instances, database instances, storage space, etc.) without interacting with the service provider. Users can also monitor their cloud services, usage, and computing capabilities. More on scalability later.
Extensive Network Access
Ideally, if the customer has an internet connection and a device, they can access their cloud resources. However, thanks to the complexity and variety of IT, that’s too simple a take. Broad network access considers customer platforms' potential diversity, Virtual Private Networks (VPN), and Local Area Networks (LAN). Users often employ VPNs to connect on-site resources with a dedicated set of servers in the public cloud, which results in a virtual private cloud. Broad network access and cloud computing as a whole rely on latency and network bandwidth to ensure optimum performance and network quality of service (QoS). Time-sensitive applications rely on rapid and uninterrupted processing times.
Monitored, Measured Service
As anyone who’s gone off on a shopping spree can tell you, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re spending. Good cloud service providers monitor, measure, and report resource usage for their customers. This accounting allows the customer to optimize their company’s resource utilization by leveraging the charge-per-use capabilities. It boils down to the “pay only for what you use” model, and the monitoring ensures that the customer isn’t overspending.
Easy to Maintain
Many organizations turn to cloud computing because they don’t want to go through the bother of hosting and maintaining an in-house data center and all its resources. That’s the whole point of cloud computing—pay someone else to do the heavy lifting! A decent cloud provider has easily maintained servers and low downtime instances and installs upgrades and updates.
Hackers, data leaks, viruses, and cyber-crimes are big news today. If a company or private individual puts their confidential data out there, they want it to be safe. The idea of storing things like bank account numbers, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, and other sensitive information off-site, is unnerving. Psychologically speaking, people feel more secure having that kind of data under their roof, close at hand. So, a cloud provider must have security that’s so indisputably good that it can overcome that reluctance. This security includes making snapshots of all the data so that it never gets lost if a server fails, and cannot be accessed by outsiders or unauthorized users.
Service Level Agreements
A Service Level Agreement, or SLA, is a guarantee provided by the host to offer the client a certain level of performance, availability, and capacity. You can find SLAs in the world of software sales, where vendors provide different levels of user licenses and subscription durations—many cloud providers use the same model.
Rapid Elasticity and Scalability
Say your organization has a cloud server subscription set up, and it handles all your platform needs. Suddenly, your sales department launches this huge app that eats all your processing time, to the detriment of the other programs running concurrently. A cloud host with rapid elasticity and scalability quickly creates new virtual machines to handle the extra load while the customer’s other apps keep running. Once demand goes back down, the extra servers go away. This feature is called just-in-time (JIT) service.
The term “multi-tenancy” means the cloud provider’s infrastructure serves multiple customers and is one of the more unique cloud computing characteristics. Think of it like numerous tenants, each living in their own apartment in one large apartment building. In the context of cloud computing, numerous clients share the same infrastructure or applications while retaining their information’s privacy and security. If you’re shopping around for a cloud platform, you should see how the host handles multi-tenancy. You may encounter a situation where your services must run on a dedicated, unshared infrastructure. Make sure your prospective cloud provider can set up dedicated servers.
Overbooking, or Resource Pooling
The term “overbooking” sounds terrible, doesn’t it? It’s usually something that happens when you’re trying to get a hotel room or airline ticket, only not to have it there when you arrive because they overbooked it. But in cloud computing, overbooking means that the host overbooks the servers’ processing capacities because most services and applications don’t always operate at peak capacity all the time, and different apps peak at different intervals. Thus, in a move to improve cost-effectiveness, cloud services will overbook the apps, confident that there’s no way they will all have maximum demand at the same time.
Why Are These Cloud Computing Characteristics Important for Professionals?
Those nine cloud computing characteristics offer a lot of food for thought, but why exactly are they essential for dedicated cloud computing professionals or any other IT or business professional who relies on cloud processing?
For starters, cloud computing is increasingly popular, and we’ll be seeing it a lot more. Therefore, the more you know about cloud computing’s nature, the better you can handle scenarios involving it.
If you’re shopping around for a cloud provider either for yourself or your organization, then it’s smart to familiarize yourself with what defines a good platform. There are a lot of providers to choose from.
Finally, every customer has a different situation and different needs. There is no “one size fits all” solution. By breaking down cloud services into nine distinct cloud computing characteristics, you can guarantee a better fit.
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Do You Want to Become a Cloud Computing Professional?
Cloud computing is forecast to grow six percent in 2020, increasing the annual revenue to USD 257.9 billion and continuing the trend in the next few years. This forecast means the demand for cloud computing services will keep trending upward, making it a great career choice.
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According to Indeed.com, cloud engineers earn an average annual salary of USD 117,750. If you want a career that’s in massive demand, provides an exciting challenge, and compensates you handsomely, then check out Simplilearn and take your future into the clouds!