Cloud Computing for Small and Medium Businesses

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Cloud computing is a computing infrastructure that is completely accessible through the internet. The applications and data can be easily shared and accessed through most computing devices such as PCs, Macs, tablets, etc. This is called BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines cloud computing as a “model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.” Cloud computing has these essential characteristics:

  • On-Demand – A consumer can make provisions for all kinds of computing capabilities that include servers and network storage as required. All of this can be acquired without significant lead time when the consumer needs it.
  • Broad Network Access – various options are accessible over the network and can be accessed through regular means that support use of heterogeneous client platforms that may be thick (PC) or thin (mobile phones, tablets, thin client device).
  • Resource Pooling – The provider’s computing resources are pooled or used to serve several consumers using a multi-tenant model, with diverse physical and virtual requirements dynamically assigned and reassigned as per the need of the end consumer. Examples of resources include storage, processing, memory, and network bandwidth.
  • Automated Service – Cloud systems without human intervention control and optimize the various resource use by allocating storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts. Usage of resources can be monitored, controlled, and reported, providing transparency to both the provider and consumer of the facility.
  • Rapid Elasticity – Various services can be provisioned as per their needs to quickly meet the outward and inward corresponding demand. To the consumer, the facilities available are unlimited and can be corrected in any quantity at any time.

As per NIST, cloud computing is used in four ways over three service models. The three service models include:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) –The consumer can use the provider’s applications that are running on a cloud infrastructure. These applications are accessible from various client devices through a thin client interface, such as a web browser (e.g., web-based email), or a program interface. The consumer cannot manage or even control the underlying cloud infrastructure in any way including the network, servers, operating systems, storage, or even individual application facilities, with the potential exclusion of limited user-specific application pattern settings.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) –The capability provided to the consumer is to provision processing, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources where the consumer is able to organize and run certain software, which can include operating systems and applications. The consumer however, does not administer or have power over the cloud infrastructure. They can use the facility and have control over operating systems, storage, and deployed applications; and may have limited control of select networking components.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) – The capability provided to the consumer is to arrange consumer-created or acquired applications created onto the cloud infrastructure using programming languages, libraries, services, and tools supported by the provider. The consumer does not in any way manage or even control the cloud infrastructure that includes network, servers, operating systems, or storage, but has control over the arranged functions and probably configuration settings for the application-hosting environment.

The four deployment models are:

  • Public Cloud – Here the cloud infrastructure is provisioned to be used by the general public. It may be owned, managed, and operated by a business, academic, or government organization, or a certain combination of them. It exists on the premises of the cloud provider.
  • Private Cloud – This means that the cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a single organization comprising of multiple consumers such as business units. It may be owned, managed, controlled and operated by the organization, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.
  • Community Cloud – The cloud infrastructure here is provisioned for exclusive use by a specific community of consumers only from organizations that have shared concerns (e.g., mission, security requirements, policy, and compliance considerations). It may be controlled, owned, managed, and operated by one or more of the organizations in the community, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.
  • Hybrid Cloud – The cloud infrastructure in Hybrid is provisioned for exclusive use by a single organization comprising multiple consumers (e.g., business units). It may be owned, managed, and operated by the organization, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist both on and off premises.