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What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service, instead of as a product, as is traditional. Shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers over a network, instead of actually on the machine the data is being viewed.

It describes a new supplement, consumption, and delivery model for IT services based on Internet protocols, and it typically involves provisioning of dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources. It is a byproduct and consequence of the ease-of-access to remote computing sites provided by the Internet. This may take the form of web-based tools or applications that users can access and use through a web browser as if the programs were installed locally on their own computers.

Cloud computing providers deliver applications via the internet, which are accessed from a web browser, while the business software and data are stored on servers at a remote location. In some cases, legacy applications (line of business applications that until now have been prevalent in thin client Windows computing) are delivered via a screen-sharing technology, while the computing resources are consolidated at a remote data center location.

Most cloud computing infrastructures consist of services delivered through shared data-centers and appearing as a single point of access for consumers' computing needs. Commercial offerings may be required to meet service-level agreements (SLAs), but specific terms are less often negotiated by smaller companies.

It should be noted that this approach is not without drawback, shared datacentres can also result in shared outages if appropriate action is not taken. An example of this occurred in 2011 when AZC cloud services suffered an outage which placed a number of enterprise applications offline. In normal circumstances their data center would have automatically fallen over to a new server network, however in the cloud environment this did not happen, resulting in a significant data outage for the company.

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