Cloud computing is a buzzword now frequently used in IT circles to describe a relatively new method of providing and/or using software services that are hosted in a virtual sense either on the Internet or within private or shared networks. The types of services delivered through cloud computing vary greatly from modifications of common instruments to handle clients' different requirements to leveraging the ease of the Web by giving inexpensive alternatives to conventional networked systems and structure. Personal and Industrial cloud computing services, such as those from companies including Amazon, Yahoo, and Sales-force, have assisted the advancement of cloud computing technology readiness, availability and dependability. However, in considering this technology it is important to understand the “flavors” available, vendor offerings, their potential security risks, costs and constraints, which are discussed below.

Public Cloud

The public cloud is what many people think about once the phrase “cloud computing” is used and includes providers that offer network resources such as e-mail, network storage, CRM or other programs and features, either totally free to the overall public on the Internet or those that use the services and pay just for what they use (such as tiered subscription service). Public cloud companies have advantages over hosting the same services “in house” including simple initial configuration, no need for equipment setup, minimum software configuration, and if there are costs linked to the service, a single, standard price for the kind of service selected (a welcome alternative to managing individual software and service setup and network connectivity, along with the power and personnel necessary to keep the systems running) [3].

Private Cloud

Private cloud computing leverages available systems and resources within an organization’s network instead of relying upon companies in the public network world by implementing a cloud computing infrastructure within their own enterprise. Virtualization (where entire workstation or server operating systems are deployed and run within the confined of hardware emulation software, such as VMWare) is one of the more popular, current methods employed within the enterprise that enables companies to reap the benefits of cloud computing within the control and security of their own networks. The benefits that individual cloud processing gives to the business includes the advantages gained by pooling resources, where equipment can be shared by several different system resources which are deployed on the same, single hardware platform, and also can be easily moved, copied, backed up, re-deployed or scaled-down if required (flexibility), so that less IT personnel are necessary, while also consuming less time for IT administration by decreasing visits to the data center, and enabling the ability to offer self-service to employees in some cases [4].

Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid clouds incorporate the aforementioned types of personal and public cloud formats into a single virtual IT infrastructure. The primary reason why an organization would resort to using a hybrid cloud is because they may have certain types of company and/or customer sensitive information that requires extremely secure data storage in adherence to company or government regulations, while using the price savings that is available when utilizing public cloud instances where possible (such as for e-mail or storage of information that doesn't need a higher level of protection). The main advantage of hybrid cloud is the fact that the whole or most of the IT infrastructure can enjoy the advantages of cloud systems while still retaining most of the advantages of in-house IT functions (such as for instance personal, non-shared, storage) [5].

Community Cloud

Community cloud has the qualities of both a private cloud and a public cloud combined in to one by achieving the specific needs of a group of businesses which require the same types of cloud services. Community clouds supply the benefits of public cloud resources through a pool of shared resources, spending money on just what they use, and excluding what they do not need (for cost savings and efficiency), and that may also have particular configuration needs such as a requirement for regulatory compliance protection or privacy setup guarantees) which are needed by all tenants inside the cloud community, used both in personal data centers or public data centers [2].

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Cloud Based Services

Software as a Service

SaaS is arguably the very first of the cloud technologies that emerged. SaaS is basically “renting” or “leasing” software on the Web instead of buying software and deploying it on the organization's private networks and systems. The benefits of SaaS to a business are enormous, with a main focus on leveraging all the software benefits, without incurring the liability that normally complements all software deployments. SaaS permits use of software that doesn't need to be maintained, so that all critical security updates and patches, functional updates, and hardware maintenance required to operate the software, are all maintained and supplied by the SaaS vendor.

Infrastructure as a Service

IaaS deals primarily with the lower-levels of the OSI model, unlike the more familiar cloud services that are application based and focused. The IaaS process framework basically involves hiring or leasing equipment within the public or community cloud where a business may deploy and manage their system software and programs. Businesses that would rather make use of this method require a very solid handle on their cloud settings (like the need to keep tight regulatory compliance of the systems where their programs and information is stored) while still keeping administrative and equipment costs to a minimum using the price effectiveness and performance combination afforded by cloud based systems.

Platform as a Service

PaaS is quite similar to SaaS since the “platform” to which the acronym refers is software, however in this case in the form of operating systems, instead of software or programs as is the case with SaaS. PaaS allows organizations the capability to hire the systems where their programs are run. This arrangement is beneficial whenever an organization wants to leverage the advantages of cloud technologies, yet doesn't wish to host a cloud, and still needs to completely manage the computer programs and associated data [3].

Concluding Thoughts

Cloud technology opens the door to extensive cost and administrative savings as well as efficiency in business process and system accessibility. It can facilitate collaboration and better management practices through flexible connectivity in addition to the aforementioned operational advantages. Cloud computing is widely in use by companies such as IBM, Microsoft, and Google that are already leveraging the major advantages cited. However, barriers to successful IT infrastructure cloud migration must be carefully considered before adopting this technology. Regulatory compliance issues, such as the need for periodic audits in the case of HIPAA, SOX and PCI must be considered if these apply to the business. Data sensitivity and the data classification allowed to be managed and stored within cloud services (verses continuing to manage and store in house) is another crucial consideration along with disaster recovery and incident response for information held within the cloud. Hence, cloud solutions are in most cases not a 100% in house IT operations replacement however, can serve to minimize IT cost while maximizing efficiency. Careful evaluation, risk analysis and planning can ensure that investment and/or migration toward cloud based technologies are rewarded with the benefits previously discussed.