Often referred to as “the cloud”, cloud computing is a great way for individuals or businesses to gain access to shared resources, software and information from any part of the world, so long as connectivity is available. This information is stored on physical or virtual servers which are maintained by a cloud computing provider, a 3rd party, or stored in DIY built in-house servers. The act of sharing resources helps to achieve consistency and economies of scale. Cloud computing is widely used by big corporations such as Apple (iCloud), Google (Google Cloud) and Amazon (Amazon Web Services).
Cloud computing is made up of two layers – front-end layer and back-end layer. The network layer (Internet) helps to connect the cloud platform to the connect to end users’ devices.
The front-end layer consists of a client, an application, user interface and what the users interact with. The back-end layer consists of computers that run the applications, servers, data storage systems, and “the cloud”. Each application has their own servers and central servers to help monitor traffic on all other servers, and to communicate through protocols. The software that is used to operate “the cloud” in the computing system is also known as a middleware, which allows computers to communicate and transmit data.
There are 3 types of cloud computing – Software as a service (SaaS), Platform as a service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
Software as a service (SaaS) is a software distribution model which a 3rd party provider hosts applications and make them available to users via Internet on a subscription basis. It removes the need for companies to install and run applications on their own computer as these softwares are shared on these cloud platforms. In addition, companies need not worry about hardware acquisition, provision, maintenance and software licensing as these are managed by the 3rd party hosts. Most of these SaaS applications can be run directly from the web browser without downloading or installations required, however some may require plugins. An example of a SaaS application is Google Apps (Google Docs), it allows multiple users to gain access to resources and update them simultaneously on their devices. No download or installation was required as the application was readily available for usage on web browsers, and even on their mobile devices.