Cloud computing is the offering of an application or multiple applications to an array of users via a cluster of servers. Users login into the same servers and the application(s) are owned by the service or application provider. Properly engineered, cloud computing can have the same availability characteristics as those of hosted and managed services. However, most cloud applications are not considered business critical and deliver minimally required service levels to attract and retain customers.
Public cloud computing is the most widely available. With public cloud computing a large cluster of servers is used to provide access to one or more applications. Internet email from Yahoo or Google are examples of public cloud computing. Many users share the application on a set of servers. As the cloud computing business becomes more diversified, the number and types of applications expands. This can lead to service interruptions and a potential increase in security risks as the computing environment becomes more complicated and difficult to manage or predict performance. However, there are benefits. Operating over multiple servers offers better protection to the users against denial of service attacks and application anomalies that may consume computing resources at an unexpected rate. However, some businesses should be aware of the need for data encryption and certain corporate governance issues. These can often be overcome by participating in a private cloud computing environment.
While private clouds are more expensive than public, the systems environment, security, data protections and management of the applications can be customized and more closely aligned with the established business practices of the client. Performance and business continuity can also be better monitored, maintained and implemented. Private cloud computing environments do require more advance IT support on the part of the business soliciting such services and should be the desired option when the application is business critical or the stored data deemed sensitive.
Additional cloud computing benefits include faster time to deployment, usually established and working applications, easy access, reduce costs and minimal to no capital expenditures. So what makes it different from hosted or managed services? Check back on Friday for a discussion of hosted services.