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What is Clouding? A Definitive Guide to Cloud Computing

What is Clouding? Clouding refers to cloud computing, which is the delivery of computing services, including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence, over the internet (the cloud) to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale.


Cloud computing has become an integral part of our digital lives, yet many people don’t actually understand what the cloud is or how it works. This beginner’s guide will explain the basics of cloud computing in simple terms, including key concepts like SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, public vs private cloud, hybrid cloud, and more. We’ll also look at the benefits of the cloud, common uses cases, and cloud computing providers. By the end, you’ll have a solid foundational understanding of this important technology powering the internet.

What is Clouding?

Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of IT resources like compute power, database storage, applications, and other IT resources through the internet with pay-as-you-go pricing[1]. Instead of buying, owning, and maintaining physical data centers and servers, you can access technology services directly over the internet on a subscription basis. This allows organizations to get applications up and running faster, with improved manageability and less maintenance.

Cloud computing relies on sharing resources to achieve coherence and economies of scale similar to a public utility [2]. The cloud is essentially a pool of virtualized computer resources. These resources can be dynamically provisioned and re-configured to adjust to variable load (scale), allowing for optimum resource utilization.

Consumers don’t need to purchase hardware, software or supporting infrastructure, which is owned and managed by providers. Providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and Google own and maintain the network-connected hardware required for these application services, and deploy software and services onto those resources on request. Consumers pay for the used resources on a recurring basis sometimes hourly or monthly.

How Does Cloud Computing Work?

Cloud computing works by providing computing services like servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics and more over the internet. Rather than owning their own computing infrastructure or data centers, companies can rent access to anything from applications to storage from a cloud service provider.

Here is a basic overview of how cloud computing works:

  • Cloud providers like AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud have huge data centers around the world containing thousands of servers and storage devices.
  • These providers make these resources available via the internet so that customers can access servers, storage, databases and software as services rather than having to own and manage this infrastructure themselves.
  • Customers access these services on-demand through a web-based management console or APIs and only pay for what they use. Usage is metered and customers are billed monthly based on metrics like hours of server time, number of users, storage used, data transfers, etc.
  • Customers can scale services up or down as needed to meet demands, adding more storage or provisioning more servers to meet spikes in traffic.
  • The cloud provider takes care of maintaining the underlying infrastructure, keeping it up-to-date and securing it while abstracting away those tasks from customers.

So in summary, cloud computing allows customers to consume computing resources as managed services rather than having to build and maintain computing infrastructure themselves. This provides more agility and flexibility for businesses.

Types of Cloud Computing

There are three main types of cloud computing services called models that cloud providers offer:

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

The most basic category is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) where cloud providers offer access to computing resources like servers, storage, and networking[4]. IaaS provides the underlying infrastructure that other cloud services are built upon.

With IaaS, cloud providers maintain the hardware while customers rent compute instances, storage, and other infrastructure they can use however they want. Customers have control to configure these resources and run anything on virtual machines from operating systems to application stacks.AWS EC2 and S3, Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines, and Google Compute Engine are examples of IaaS.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Platform as a Service (PaaS) refers to cloud platforms for building, testing, and deploying applications[5]. PaaS provides a layer of abstraction and automation so developers can focus on building applications without worrying about setting up underlying infrastructure.

Cloud providers offering PaaS deliver hardware and software tools to make coding and deploying applications quick and efficient. For example, services like AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Heroku, and Google App Engine let developers quickly build applications using languages and frameworks like .NET, Python, Java, etc without managing servers.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Software as a Service (SaaS) provides access directly to cloud-based applications[6]. SaaS allows customers to use software applications hosted and managed on cloud infrastructure without having to install anything locally. Cloud providers maintain and manage the underlying infrastructure and software.

Common examples are email, productivity suites like Office 365, CRM tools like Salesforce, file sharing like Dropbox, and collaboration tools like Slack. SaaS allows consumers to get up and running with solutions fast without IT overhead.

Cloud Computing Benefits

There are several key benefits that make cloud computing services advantageous over traditional on-premises IT for many organizations:

Cost Savings – No need to invest in expensive hardware and datacenters that quickly become obsolete. Pay only for the resources used with no upfront capital expenditure.

Scalability – Scale up or down to meet demands. Cloud allows for virtually unlimited storage/bandwidth.

Speed – Provision resources within minutes to support new projects faster. Deploy applications globally in minutes.

Reliability – Cloud providers offer high availability with multiple redundancies and geo-diversity.

Productivity – On-demand self-service and automation frees up IT teams from maintenance.

Performance – Leverage high performance global computing resources not affordable otherwise.

Accessibility – Universal network access allows employees to work anywhere with an internet connection.

By utilizing cloud computing services, organizations can gain these benefits to accelerate innovation and agility. The cloud offers IT teams more time to focus on higher value tasks vs. maintaining infrastructure. It also allows smaller organizations and startups to launch without large capital investments.

Common Cloud Computing Use Cases

Here are some of the most popular use cases and examples of cloud computing:

  • File storage – Services like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive for storing personal files or sharing documents.
  • Email/communication apps – Gmail, Office 365 Mail, Zoom, Slack.
  • Business Applications – CRM, marketing automation, payroll, accounting apps like Salesforce, Marketo, ADP, QuickBooks.
  • Big Data analytics – AWS, Azure, and GCP offer data lakes and analytics tools to uncover insights from vast amounts of data.
  • AI and machine learning – Access powerful ML/AI capabilities like image and speech recognition via cloud APIs and services.
  • IoT – Cloud services gather telemetry data from internet-connected sensors and devices.
  • Serverless computing – Functions-as-a-service like AWS Lambda to execute code without managing servers.
  • DevOps – Cloud-based tools like Git, Jenkins, Docker, Kubernetes to support CI/CD workflows.
  • Disaster Recovery – Replicate data and systems to the cloud to enable faster recovery from outages.
  • Web/mobile apps – Highly scalable infrastructure for web and mobile applications.
  • Gaming – Online game development, hosting and delivery of games to players.

This is just a small sample – almost any application or workload can benefit from moving to the cloud.

Public Cloud vs Private Cloud vs Hybrid Cloud

There are a few different ways to implement cloud computing:

Public Cloud

Public clouds are owned and operated by third-party cloud service providers that deliver their computing resources like servers and storage over the Internet[7]. AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform are examples of public cloud providers. With public cloud services, computing resources are essentially being rented rather than purchased.

Private Cloud

A private cloud refers to cloud computing resources used exclusively by a single business or organization[8]. A private cloud can be physically located on the company’s on-site local datacenter. Some organizations also pay third-party service providers to host their private cloud. Virtualization and resource pooling are used to create a cloud computing environment in a private network.

Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid clouds combine both public and private cloud models[9]. Organizations may host sensitive or critical on-premises in a private cloud while leveraging public clouds for other resources. Workloads can be shared between private and public clouds as demand dictates. This provides more flexibility and allows organizations to take advantage of both models.

Major Cloud Computing Providers

The top hyperscale cloud computing providers that dominate the market are:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) – The largest cloud provider that pioneered IaaS public cloud computing services[10]. Dominates the market with a wide array of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS offerings.
  • Microsoft Azure – Azure is Microsoft’s cloud platform that comes second after AWS with strong hybrid cloud capabilities and support for Windows workloads[11].
  • Google Cloud Platform (GCP) – Google Cloud offers IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS focused on technologies like containers, Kubernetes, big data, and machine learning[12].
  • IBM Cloud – Enterprise-focused cloud platform optimized for running AI, analytics, IoT, and serverless applications[13].
  • Alibaba Cloud – Popular in Asia, Alibaba Cloud offers elastic computing, databases, networking, storage, and services[14].

There are dozens of other smaller cloud providers as well that offer services to fill specific niches.

Cloud Computing Security

Since cloud computing involves storing data on remote servers accessed over the internet, some people express concerns about security. However, for many companies, a public cloud provider can offer greater security than on-premises systems because of the cloud provider’s superior resources, skills, and dedicated security teams. Major cloud providers offer robust security tools and practices including:

  • Data encryption both in transit and at rest
  • Network traffic filtering
  • Granular identity and access controls
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • DDoS mitigation
  • Vulnerability scanning
  • Regular audits and certifications (SOC2, ISO, PCI, etc)
  • High availability and resilience to failures

That said, the shared responsibility model applies to cloud security. The cloud provider secures the underlying infrastructure and customers must properly configure cloud security groups, access policies, encryption, etc. Proper cloud security and governance practices are still required for defense in depth.

Cloud Computing Challenges

While adopting cloud computing services offers many benefits, some challenges and drawbacks include:

  • Vendor lock-in – Difficulty migrating from one cloud provider to another due to lack of standardization.
  • Compliance risks – Public cloud may not meet regulatory data residency and compliance requirements in some industries like healthcare and finance.
  • Limited control – Customers cede control over certain aspects like updates/changes to the provider.
  • Data transfer costs – Cloud providers charge for moving large volumes of data.
  • Downtime – Even major cloud providers have experienced region-wide service disruptions.
  • Security – Customers share infrastructure increasing attack surfaces. Risks if misconfigured by customer.
  • Skill gaps – Migrating legacy apps or building cloud-native apps requires training.

Organizations should weigh the pros and cons vs. their specific use case when adopting cloud computing. Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud approaches help minimize vendor lock-in risks.

Cloud Computing Trends

Some notable trends shaping the future of cloud computing include:

  • Accelerating growth as more workloads are migrated to take advantage of cloud benefits. Cloud is expected to make up >15% of IT spend by 2025[15].
  • Serverless computing for event-driven apps and functions without managing servers.
  • Containers & microservices enable portability between cloud environments.
  • Multi-cloud & hybrid cloud become the common approach over single-provider.
  • Cloud-native application development gaining popularity vs legacy rehosting.
  • Cloud-hosted AI for natural language processing, voice recognition, analytics, etc.
  • Edge computing improves performance by processing data closer to end users.
  • Quantum computing may unlock new cloud capabilities in the future.

Cloud computing will continue to evolve allowing companies large and small to leverage its economies of scale and benefits. Consulting with managed service providers can help organizations successfully navigate their cloud journeys.

Cloud Computing FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about cloud computing:

Q: What is the cloud?

The cloud refers to servers accessed over the Internet, which store and manage data, run applications, and deliver content or services. Cloud servers are located in data centers around the world.

Q: How does the cloud work?

Cloud computing utilizes a network of remote servers hosted online to store, process, and manage data rather than using local servers or hardware. Customers can access applications, services or resources in the cloud on-demand.

Q: What are examples of cloud computing?

Popular cloud services include web-based email like Gmail, file storage & sharing like Dropbox, CRM apps like Salesforce, and communication tools like Slack. Infrastructure offerings include AWS, Azure, and GCP.

Q: What are the benefits of cloud computing?

Benefits include lower costs, faster deployment, scaling, higher availability, reduced maintenance overhead, global access, and utilizing advanced technologies.

Q: Is the cloud secure?

Major cloud providers offer robust security tools, technologies, and practices to secure data and meet compliance requirements. Customers share responsibility for properly configuring cloud services.

Q: What is PaaS?

PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) provides development tools, middleware, and infrastructure to allow developers to quickly build/deploy cloud-based applications without managing underlying resources.

Q: What is IaaS?

IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) delivers fundamental computing resources including networking, storage, and virtualized servers that customers can access on-demand via the Internet.

Q: What is private cloud?

Private cloud services are delivered via a private, internal network rather than the public Internet. Private clouds provide dedicated resources accessible only to a single organization for security and control.

Q: What is hybrid cloud?

Hybrid cloud combines public and private clouds allowing organizations to run some workloads in-house while leveraging public cloud services for other needs.


In summary, cloud computing utilizes the internet to provide organizations on-demand access to IT resources like servers, storage, databases, and software without needing to build out their own data centers. It allows companies to get the computing power they need quickly and easily.

With public clouds offered by vendors like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, small businesses can compete and launch without huge hardware investments. Larger enterprises gain agility and scale while reducing their operational costs by moving to the cloud.

Cloud computing offers significant advantages in terms of cost, speed, global scale, productivity, performance, and accessibility. While some challenges like security remain, proper precautions and governance can help companies utilize the cloud safely.

This guide covered cloud computing concepts for beginners. To learn more or get help migrating your infrastructure, visit to connect with cloud experts.


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