Cloud 101: What Is Cloud Computing Technology?

Cloud computing has arrived, and everyone is interested in learning more. Your users and customers are used to their personal mobile applications, like Facebook and Google Docs, where they can interact and work anywhere, anytime. But there is much more behind cloud computing than just a modern web interface. Great response time, data storage, information access, reliability, and security are all vital to any business looking into a possible “move to the cloud.” More than likely your peers have told you of their success with cloud computing and how they have the most current technology, much more flexibility, or lower IT costs.

What is cloud technology?

Cloud computing delivers services such as data storage, security, networking, software applications, and business intelligence via the internet on a subscription basis. 

As you explore the world of cloud computing, you will want to be familiar with some of the terms, definitions, and choices you have in cloud computing. Here you will find an assortment of pertinent information, including explanations of terms such as SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud, and how they differ. The cloud does offer a lot of benefits and we will briefly review those first.

Benefits of cloud computing

Woman using cloud software

Types of cloud computing services

Cloud computing is divided into three main service categories: SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS. Some providers combine these services – and others offer them independent of each other.

What is SaaS?

With SaaS (software-as-a-service), software is hosted on a remote server and customers can access it anytime, anywhere, from a Web browser or a standard web integration. The SaaS provider takes care of backups, maintenance, and updates. SaaS solutions include enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), project management, and more.

What is PaaS?

Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) is a cloud-based, application development environment that provides developers with everything they need to build and deploy apps. With PaaS, developers can choose the features and cloud services they want on a subscription or pay-per-use basis.

What is IaaS?

Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) lets companies “rent” computing resources, such as servers, networks, storage, and operating systems, on a pay-per-use basis. The infrastructure scales – and customers don’t have to invest in the hardware.

IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

Compare SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS and find out what you can expect from each “as-a-service” model. Most companies now use a mix of the three – and the lines between them can sometimes blur.

SaaSPaaSIaaS
Who Uses ItBusiness usersDevelopersSystem admins
What You GetSoftware applicationsDevelopment platformComputing resources
PurposeTo complete business tasksTo build and deploy applicationsTo access storage, networking, servers, and other infrastructure online
Provider ControlsApps, data, runtime, middleware, O/S, virtualization, servers, storage, networkingRuntime, middleware, O/S, virtualization, servers, storage, networkingVirtualization, servers, storage, networking
Customer ControlsN/A – everything is managed by the providerApps, dataApps, data, runtime, middleware, O/S

Types of cloud deployment

There are three different types of cloud deployment: public, private, and hybrid. Many companies choose more than one approach and set up a multi-cloud environment.

  1. Public cloud: With a public cloud, services are delivered to customers over a network that’s available for usage by the provider’s clients. Public clouds offer efficiency and affordability and are often multi-tenant – meaning the provider runs your service in a shared environment.
  2. Private cloud: With a private cloud, services are maintained on a private network protected by a firewall. You can build a private cloud within your own data center – or subscribe to one hosted by a vendor. Private clouds offer the most security and control.
  3. Hybrid cloud: A hybrid cloud is a combination of public cloud, private cloud, and on-premise infrastructure. Hybrid clouds let you keep sensitive information in a traditional data center or private cloud while taking advantage of public cloud resources.

Public vs. private vs. hybrid cloud

Compare the three different types of cloud deployments to find out which would work best for your company.

Public CloudPrivate CloudHybrid Cloud
EnvironmentPublicly-shared computing resourcesPrivate computing resourcesMix of public and private resources
Auto-ScalingHighCan be limitedHigh
SecurityGood – but depends on security of the vendorMost secure – all data stored in private data centerVery secure – sensitive data stored in private data center
ReliabilityMedium – depends on Internet connectivity and service provider availabilityHigh – all equipment on premise or hosted by dedicated private cloud providerMedium to high – some dependency on service provider
CostLow – pay-for-what-you-need model and no need for on-premise storage and infrastructureModerate to high – can require on-premise resources such as a data center, electricity, and IT staffModerate – mix of pay-for-what-you-need model and on-premise resources
Who Is It for?Companies that want to take advantage of the latest SaaS apps and elastic IaaS while keeping costs lowGovernment agencies, healthcare providers, banks, and any business that handles a lot of sensitive dataCompanies that want to keep critical apps and data private – and still use public cloud services

Cloud security

Is the cloud actually secure? The degree of security in the cloud depends on how it was deployed and the cloud service provider’s capabilities. But it has been shown that in most cases, the cloud provides more security than on-premise installations. There are several reasons for this:

Location of data: An on-premise deployment will mean your data is in your facility. It is worth noting that the first step in someone stealing your data is knowing where it is located. The large cloud providers have many servers in various locations, so it is difficult for anyone to identify where data is located.

Security: With an on-premise solution, your staff maintains all security procedures and software updates. Just recently, a large, well-known insurance company had a security breach, and it was found that the IT department had not installed security updates for many months. With a reputable cloud provider, companies have full-time professional security experts to keep the data safe.

Backup: In a traditional legacy application implementation in your facility, you are responsible for backing up your valuable information on a regular basis. If your company does this, it is still necessary to have current copies stored off-site.

Delivering new technologies via the cloud

IT departments are under increasing pressure to transform from cost centers to value creators – and now must lead the charge when it comes to innovation. Cloud computing and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) can be a catalyst for CIOs who want to successfully maintain a bi-modal IT environment that encourages rapid innovation while securely supporting the stable, mission-critical core of the business.

Check out this white paper by SAP and Ovum Research to better understand the role of IT in the digital enterprise, linking IT activities not only with IT metrics, but with business metrics and outcomes. The paper examines the IT journey and outlines the steps to IT-led digital transformation.

Continue building your cloud expertise

Are you looking to transform to a hybrid cloud landscape? In this free online course from openSAP, you’ll learn all about hybrid cloud landscapes, including best practices for integration, security, and operations. Plus, explore next steps and strategies for starting your own hybrid cloud transformation journey.

Cloud technology and services from SAP

SAP offers a robust portfolio of SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS solutions for whatever type of deployment and level of security you require.