What Is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of computing services such as servers, storage, databases, networking, software, and analytics. Rather than keeping files on a proprietary hard drive or local storage device, cloud-based storage makes it possible to save remotely. Cloud computing is a popular option for people and businesses, allowing for cost savings, increased productivity, speed and efficiency, performance, and security.

Storing Data

Cloud computing means data is stored remotely in the cloud or a virtual space. Companies that provide cloud services enable users to keep files and applications on remote servers and access all data via the Internet. An individual’s or company’s data, work, and applications are available from any device that connects to the Internet.

Cloud computing can be both public and private. Public cloud services provide their services over the Internet for a fee. Private cloud services only provide services to a certain number of people. These services are a system of networks that supply hosted services. There is also a hybrid option, which combines public and private services.

Cloud Services

  • Email
  • Storage, backup, and data retrieval
  • Creating and testing apps
  • Data Analytics
  • Audio and video streaming
  • Delivering software on demand


Cloud computing is a system primarily comprised of three services: software-as-a-service (SaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and platform-as-a-service (PaaS).

  1. Software-as-a-service (SaaS) involves the licensure of a software application to customers. Licenses are typically provided through a pay-as-you-go model or on-demand. This type of system can be found in Microsoft Office 365.2
  2. Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) delivers everything from operating systems to servers and storage through IP-based connectivity as part of an on-demand service. Clients do not need to purchase software or servers and instead procure these resources in an outsourced, on-demand service. Popular examples of the IaaS system include IBM Cloud and Microsoft Azure.23
  3. Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) is considered the most complex of the three layers of cloud-based computing. PaaS shares some similarities with SaaS, but instead of delivering software online, it is a platform for creating software delivered via the Internet. This model includes platforms like Salesforce.com and Heroku.45

Pros and Cons

Thanks to cloud computing, users can check their email on any computer and store files using services such as Dropbox and Google Drive.67 Cloud computing lets users back up their music, files, and photos. Companies were once required to purchase, construct, and maintain costly information management technology and infrastructure. Companies can swap costly server centers and IT departments for fast Internet connections, where employees interact with the cloud online to complete their tasks.

The cloud structure saves storage space on desktops or laptops. It also lets users upgrade software via the web rather than through more traditional, tangible methods involving discs or flash drives. However, security is a concern, especially for medical records and financial information.

While regulations force cloud computing services to shore up their security and compliance measures, it remains an ongoing issue. Encryption is commonly used to protect vital information. Servers maintained by cloud computing companies may fall victim to natural disasters, internal bugs, and power outages. As with any technology, with many individuals accessing and manipulating information through a single portal, mistakes can transfer across an entire system.

Service Providers

  • Google Cloud
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Microsoft Azure
  • IBM Cloud
  • Alibaba Cloud
  • Dell Cloud
  • Oracle Cloud

Amazon Web Services is 100% public and includes a pay-as-you-go, outsourced model.1 Once on the platform users can sign up for apps and additional services. Microsoft Azure allows clients to keep some data at their sites. Meanwhile, Alibaba Cloud is a subsidiary of the Alibaba Group.8

What Is an Example of Cloud Computing?

Several cloud computing applications are used by businesses and individuals, such as streaming platforms for audio or video, where the actual media files are stored remotely. Another would be data storage platforms like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, or Box.

Is Cloud Computing Safe?

Cloud security refers to efforts to protect digital assets and data stored on cloud-based services. Measures to protect this data include two-factor authorization (2FA), the use of VPNs, security tokens, data encryption, and firewall services, among others.

What Is Cloud Hacking?

Cloud hacking is when a cyber attack targets cloud-based service platforms, such as computing services, storage services, or hosted applications.

The Bottom Line

Individuals and businesses avoid keeping files on proprietary hard drives or local storage devices using cloud-based storage. Cloud computing is comprised of three services: (SaaS), (IaaS), and (PaaS). Providers allow users to store email, backups, data, audio, and video.

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