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What is cloud computing? – A definition

What is cloud computing? – A definition

In order to possess increasingly large storage capacities and high processing power, or to be able to use new software applications, more and more companies are turning to external infrastructures. According to the Cloud-Monitor 2015 study from Bitkom, the IT industry association, 44 percent of companies are already using cloud services and 24 percent are considering them for the future. This is enough reason to offer a quick guide on the terminology. 

What is cloud computing and how does it work?

Cloud computing is the technological capability to use IT infrastructures and services that are not installed on a local computer or server. Using a network (Internet or Intranet), connections are made to external computers or servers that provide appropriate resources. These services are both provided and used exclusively via technical interfaces, protocols or browsers.

Why is it called cloud computing?

The applications are located outside of the central infrastructure – floating around the company, you could say – hence the cloud metaphor.

How is cloud computing calculated?

Each cloud service (storage space, processing power, application software) is accessed dynamically and in accordance with demand, and is also calculated depending on usage. Companies do not need to make high-cost investments for providing, installing and maintaining their own computer systems, which in turn makes it possible to plan the availability of the applications and their actual costs. 

What are the service models within cloud computing?

As far back as 2009, the USA’s National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) published a definition for cloud computing which bundled different approaches. It is still generally accepted as the fundamental definition and names three principal service models:

  • IaaS / Infrastructure as a Service
  • PaaS / Platform as a Service
  • SaaS / Software as a Service


Different cloud service models (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) split into stacks 

Here the different cloud service models are split into stacks.

IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service
The customer rents an external infrastructure for its applications, data and operating system. The provider takes care of installing the servers, setting up and running the networks and storing the data. 

PaaS – Platform as a Service
Offers the same services as IaaS but goes one step further: As well as the servers, storage space and networks, the provider also supplies what are known as middleware applications – i.e. operating systems, databases, web servers, etc. The customer rents the use of the servers and the integrated tools.

SaaS – Software as a Service
The common choice for private users: The customer buys a monthly subscription and uses specific selections of software directly from the provider’s platform. The provider is responsible for installing, configuring and operating the interface. Examples of SaaS are Google Apps, Zendesk and Sales Force.

Which cloud computing model is the right one?

Selecting the suitable solution depends on each company’s individual requirements and competences. By the end of the first consultation with the cloud provider, a company should be sure of the right service model as well as the right organizational structure, which is fundamentally broken down into public, private and hybrid cloud services. As cloud services are accessed via the Internet, a company should also be aware of which security and data protection standards apply. It is advantageous for Germany companies, for example, if their data is stored in German data centers.

Check out our next blog posts to learn more about the differences between public, private and hybrid clouds.


Here is something else that may interest you:
451 Research selects *um as a major German cloud provider

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