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Cloud Computing Cheat Sheet

        posted by , March 05, 2013

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
~ Leonardo da Vinci

Cloud Computing is a simple and intuitive concept. However, it's surrounded in so much hype that pundits manage to make it sound complex.

cloud computing

These straightforward definitions may help clear through the hype:

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing provides services over a network (usually the internet).

The details of how the service is implemented is hidden in "the cloud".

cloud is simple

This is a useful abstraction because the users of a cloud don't need to know about the complexity of the cloud's computing infrastructure.

Websites such as Facebook can be considered cloud services.

Cloud Scalability

Clouds should be scalable and elastic. That means that they can bend with demand for the service — scaling up and down.

Scalability is achieved by making many computing resources appear as one.

Cloud providers use a variety of technologies to make this happen. Many of these technologies have been around for a long time (e.g. load balancers).


One of the benefits of cloud computing is the sharing of computing resources. This often means sharing many computing devices amongst many users.

Most cloud providers also have the capability to share a single computing resource amongst many users. This is known as virtualization.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Software that's provided as a cloud service.

This typically has several advantages:

It's scalable.

It's on-demand. Assuming you don't have customization requirements, you can often start using the service right away.

It's low maintenance. The service provider handles maintenance of the service.

It's reliable. Cloud services typically maintain high availability (they're usually up).

It's easy to buy. Traditional software requires an upfront investment in hardware, software and installation.

Data Control & Privacy
Software as a Service stores your data in the cloud. This may raise privacy and security concerns.

Another commonly cited concern is that it can be difficult to switch providers or cancel SaaS services because the SaaS provider has your data.

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is a cloud service that allows you to store information (usually files).

Cloud storage may have other features, such as the ability to keep your files synchronized across all your devices.

The primary benefits of cloud storage are that it enables mobility, collaboration and is highly scalable. Potential concerns include data privacy, security and high bandwidth consumption.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Infrastructure as a Service provides computing resources such as computer hardware and virtual machines as a service.

The main attraction of IaaS is that it allows you to scale up computing resources quickly and efficiently. It also has cost advantages because you can scale down when you no longer require resources.

The Economics of Cloud Services
Cloud services (including SaaS and IaaS) are usually fee based.

SaaS often charges monthly subscription fees per user. IaaS often charges usage fees.

Many organizations find these pay-as-you-go licenses attractive — they can reduce risk and may have tax advantages (capex vs opex).

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Platform as a Service provides a cloud environment for developing and deploying custom software. In other words, PaaS enables custom cloud services.

Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid cloud refers to an architecture that mixes public and private cloud services.

Public Cloud

Cloud services that are available on the public internet.

Private Cloud

Cloud services that are deployed on a private network (usually owned by a single organization).

Deploying a private cloud means that an organization needs to manage its own software and hardware. However, it allows the organization to share cloud resources internally and control their service levels, data and security.

This is the first in a 12-part series of posts called How to Win at Cloud.

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