What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is a topic that many find confusing. It isn't, though, as confusing as it sounds. In fact, most of those who claim not to understand the subject are part of the majority that use it daily.

In basic terms, cloud computing is the phrase used to describe different scenarios in which computing resource is delivered as a service over a network connection (usually, this is the internet). Cloud computing is therefore a type of computing that relies on sharing a pool of physical and/or virtual resources, rather than deploying local or personal hardware and software. It is somewhat synonymous with the term "utility computing" as users are able to tap into a supply of computing resource rather than manage the equipment needed to generate it themselves; much in the same way as a consumer tapping into the national electricity supply, instead of running their own generator.
One of the key characteristics of cloud computing is the flexibility that it offers and one of the ways that flexibility is offered is through scalability. This refers to the ability of a system to adapt and scale to changes in workload. Cloud technology allows for the automatic provision and deprovision of resource as and when it is necessary, thus ensuring that the level of resource available is as closely matched to current demand as possible. This is a defining characteristic that differentiates it from other computing models where resource is delivered in blocks (e.g., individual servers, downloaded software applications), usually with fixed capacities and upfront costs. With cloud computing, the end user usually pays only for the resource they use and so avoids the inefficiencies and expense of any unused capacity.
However, the advantages of cloud computing are not limited to flexibility. Enterprise can also benefit (in varying degrees) from the economies of scale created by setting up services en masse with the same computing environments, and the reliability of physically hosting services across multiple servers where individual system failures do not affect the continuity of the service.
There is also great choice in the level of security and management required in cloud deployments, with an option to suit almost any business.

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