One of the cloud's trademarks is its flexibility, as evidenced by the wide range of forms cloud services can take. For businesses considering a move to the cloud, there are numerous options to review, and the type of service a company ends up choosing will depend on its specific needs. These six types of cloud offerings are among the most commonly adopted, and as such, potential cloud adopters should be aware of them and their respective benefits.
1. Virtual IT
Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service solutions convert the physical structure of the traditional IT department, with its many in-house servers, into a network-based model. When opting for cloud IaaS, a company essentially outsources its IT infrastructure. According to BitHeads, the most basic service an IaaS provider offers is a cloud hosting environment for networked computers. The hardware is on the vendor side, and the operating system is virtualized. Companies pay vendors based on the actual compute power they use every month. This model allows adopters to save money and accomplish more with leaner IT staffs, as employees in the department no longer have to maintain fleets of on-premise hardware and servers.
2. Network storage
The other key component to IaaS is data storage in the cloud. By moving not only computing infrastructure but also data to the cloud, businesses can effectively eliminate their need to keep any servers on site. Of course, not every company is comfortable transferring all of its information to a cloud at once. Many adopters retain a few in-house servers and move only some of their data to the cloud. The benefit here is flexibility, as businesses can take advantage of the cloud's cost savings gradually, improving business efficiency without having to disrupt operations with a dramatic, one-time move.
3. Application hosting and development
Platform-as-a-Service vendors offer cloud environments in which companies can develop applications. Not all companies will find they need PaaS, but for those who specialize in building applications or have in-house developer teams, these services can offer a range of benefits.
"By writing your application in this environment, you can very easily take advantage of dynamic scalability, automated database backups and other platform services without the need to specifically code for it," BitHeads noted.
4. Software applications in the cloud
Perhaps the most commonly adopted cloud services are Software-as-a-Service products. These solutions provide not a whole IT infrastructure but a single software application, or a suite of applications, to the business from the vendor. For firms not yet acquainted with SaaS solutions, Google Apps provides an instructive, commonly used example of how these services work. Applications are accessible via the Web, and information is stored on remote servers rather than on the computer's physical hard drive.
5. Public cloud
Simply put, a public cloud requires little to no maintenance on the part of the adopter but also affords less control and visibility. Essentially, companies purchase a slice of the provider's cloud, and they share that environment with all of that vendor's other clients. Appcore noted that this model can be highly cost-effective, as shared access to a single infrastructure means vendors can charge less per user.
6. Private cloud
Firms that have more specialized data storage and IT needs might opt for a private cloud - an environment built by the vendor specifically for one company, according to Appcore. Cloud security is much easier to control and maintain in a private cloud, as the specifications of the infrastructure can be tweaked by developers. While companies can configure clouds on-premise and control the necessary physical resources themselves, third party-hosted private clouds offer a balance of security and agility, as the cloud servers stay with the vendor.