Five Essential Characteristics of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is the distribution of computing resources like storage, databases, applications, networking capabilities, and more via the internet by service providers to their customers. Users no longer need to rely on their hardware or software resources and can instead access data, programs, and services hosted on remote servers from any location.

On-demand self-service.

A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider. With data centres worldwide, these vendors have vast amounts of computing and storage assets at the ready. This represents a radical departure for IT teams accustomed to an on-premises procurement process that can take months to complete.

Cloud computing’s characteristic of self-service provisioning goes hand in hand with on-demand computing capabilities. Instead of waiting for new servers to be delivered to a private data centre, developers can select the resources and tools they need — typically through a cloud provider’s self-service portal — and build right away. An admin sets policies to limit what IT and development teams can run, but within those guardrails, employees have the freedom to build, test and deploy apps as they see fit.

Broad network access.

Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations). To preserve that broad network access, cloud providers monitor and ensure various metrics that reflect how customers access cloud resources and data: latency, access time, data throughput, etc. These factor into quality-of-service requirements and service-level agreements. Cloud providers use several techniques to guard against downtime, such as minimizing regional dependencies to avoid single points of failure. Users can also extend their workloads across availability zones, which have redundant networks connecting multiple data centres in relatively close proximity. Some higher-level services automatically distribute workloads across availability zones.

Of course, these systems aren’t foolproof. Outages occur and enterprises must have contingency plans in place. For some, that means extending workloads across isolated regions or even different platforms — though that can come with a hefty price tag and increased complexity.

Resource pooling.

The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand. Cloud providers increasingly rely on custom hardware and abstraction layers to improve security and speed up users’ access to resources. Clouds can scale vertically or horizontally, and service providers offer automation software to handle dynamic scaling for users.

Rapid elasticity.

Capabilities can be elastically provisioned and released, in some cases automatically, to scale rapidly outward and inward commensurate with demand. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear unlimited and can be appropriated in any quantity at any time. Traditional on-premises architectures can’t scale as easily. Typically, enterprises have to purchase servers and other infrastructure assets to plan for peak capacity. Those extra resources sit idle during lulls in activity.

While scalability usually describes longer-term cloud infrastructure plans, rapid elasticity is a short-term characteristic. When demand unexpectedly surges, properly configured cloud applications and services instantly and automatically add resources to handle the load. When the demand decreases, services return to their original resource levels.

Measured service.

Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported, providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service. The cloud provider, meanwhile, can better understand how customers utilize its resources and potentially improve the infrastructure and cloud computing services offered.


Data security is one of the best characteristics of Cloud Computing. Cloud services create a copy of the data that is stored to prevent any form of data loss. If one server loses the data by any chance, the copy version is restored from the other server. This feature comes in handy when several users work on a particular file in real time, and a file suddenly gets corrupted. 

Cloud Computing can help organisations expand and safely transfer data from physical locations to the ‘cloud’ that can be accessed from anywhere. The flexibility offered by Cloud services in the form of its ever-growing set of tools and techniques has accelerated its deployment across industries. 

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