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cloudMaking sense of the key cloud computing technologies

The "cloud computing" term is often misunderstood. Let me give you a simple definition, though: with cloud computing, your data is received, processed and then stored online, instead of being stored locally, on your computer's hard drive.

Let's use the Adobe Photoshop application as a real-life example. Earlier versions used a standard program installation kit, and everything ran on your computer. So, if you had a slow computer, you had to wait quite a bit of time to see your large images being processed. If the application needed to be patched, you had to download a new software package and apply the fix yourself.

Adobe Creative Cloud includes Photoshop into their set of applications and services now, and all the work is done on Adobe's servers. This means that you can get access to a high-end suite of programs that will run fine even if you are using an underpowered computer. As new fixes are needed, the company will apply them automatically in the cloud. And since you are paying a monthly fee to access Adobe's cloud-based software, you will always get access to the latest and greatest application features, rather than having to spend a lot of money each time you want to upgrade Photoshop to the newest version.

So, cloud-based services are cool. If you utilize one of the many available cloud computing technologies (you have a webmail account, for example) you will be glad to know that your personal data is stored on a secure server, which is patched as soon as a new version of the server's operating system becomes available.

Clouds can have different levels and functionalities. Let's explore the most important ones, shall we?

With public clouds, service providers use the same servers to store data for several customers. In this case, since the cloud resources are shared, the monthly costs are lower. The offered services can consist of software, platforms and/or data storage. And since most providers use virtualization, it is very easy to increase or decrease the number of allotted computing resources on the fly.

Of course, public clouds are less secure in comparison with private clouds. If one of the customers is targeted by a successful cyber attack, the entire server (and thus other people's data) may be affected as well.

With private clouds, businesses will either host their own infrastructure, or they will pay a provider to set up dedicated servers which will only store their company's data. Since the servers aren't shared, granular security policies can be applied according to the client's desire, and this will significantly increase data security. It's true that the price will go up, though.

Hybrid clouds combine the public and private technologies, trying to offer customers the best of both worlds. Budget-conscious companies will often keep their sensitive data in a private cloud, while running their software using a public cloud.

Both companies and consumers use cloud computing services that fall into one of these three categories: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS).

With IaaS, businesses choose their desired cloud infrastructure. Then, they install the needed server operating system, software applications, and so on. It's their job to keep the OS and apps updated, fight cyber criminals, and so on.

You may not be aware of this, but you are probably using lots of SaaS applications. With Software as a Service packages, the end users will often pay a monthly fee to access a specific piece of software online, the way that Adobe does it with its Photoshop application. The application maker is responsible for keeping the app safe, adding new features to it, and so on.

Finally, PaaS is the best solution for web developers, who use the power of cloud computing to build and deploy their web apps. The service provider will only update the servers, while the developers will be responsible for keeping their own applications up to date.

As you can see, cloud computing offers several advantages. It lets people work from anywhere in the world, provided that they've got access to an Internet connection. Then, it can be scaled up or down within seconds, allowing companies to pay for the computing resources that they are actually using. If you are a business owner, I encourage you to explore this new technology; I guarantee that there are many cloud computing services which will help you save time and money.