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What Is Cloud Computing?

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Businesswoman working on computer in a modern office
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Question: What Is Cloud Computing?
Answer: Cloud computing consists of hardware and software resources made available on the Internet as managed third-party services. These services typically provide access to advanced software applications and high-end networks of server computers.

Types of Cloud Computing

Service providers create cloud computing systems to serve common business or research needs. Examples of cloud computing services include:
  • virtual IT - configure and utilize remote, third-party servers as extensions to a company's local IT network

  • software - utilize commercial software applications, or develop and remotely host custom built applications

  • network storage - back up or archive data across the Internet to a provider without needing to know the physical location of storage
Cloud computing systems all generally are designed for scalability to support large numbers of customers and surges in demand.

Examples of Cloud Computing Services

These examples illustrate the different types of cloud computing services available today: Some providers offer cloud computing services for free while others require a paid subscription.

Cloud Computing Pros and Cons

Service providers are responsible for installing and maintaining core technology within the cloud. Some customers prefer this model because it limits their own manageability burden. However, customers cannot directly control system stability in this model and are highly dependent on the provider instead.

Cloud computing systems are normally designed to closely track all system resources, which enables providers to charge customers according to the resources each consumes. Some customers will prefer this so-called metered billing approach to save money, while others will prefer a flat-rate subscription to ensure predictable monthly or yearly costs.

Using a cloud computing environment generally requires you to send data over the Internet and store it on a third-party system. The privacy and security risks associated with this model must be weighed against alternatives.

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