A Layman’s Guide to Cloud Computing

The idea of cloud computing is not a new one. The concept has come and gone through various guises over the years. Consequently “the cloud” can mean many things to many people and this is why it can get very confusing to even seasoned IT professionals. If you take the broadest interpretation, “the cloud” simply put, is any service or product that can be access through a Wide Area Network (WAN) connection.

Public and Private Cloud
Note that I say a WAN connection as opposed to an Internet connection. This is important because “the cloud” can be broken up into the either “public cloud” or “private cloud” services. The simplest none technical explanation of the difference between public and private clouds services that I can come up with is that public cloud services are normally accessed via an Internet connection and services are available to the general public as a whole, whereas private clouds run services that are only accessible to a single organisation or company (hence “private”). Often private clouds run on physically separate hardware (servers etc) whereas public cloud services run on hardware that is shared amongst multiple end customers, however this distinction is often blurred as public cloud services also often offer dedicated hardware for a single customer if required.

If you use dining out as an analogy, public cloud would be dining out at a normal restaurant, where the food for all customers is stored and, prepared in the same kitchen equipment and then delivered to your table by waiters that also serve other customers. On the other hand, a private cloud would be like dining at a restaurant where the kitchen would have a separate set of chefs, stoves, ovens, fridges and waiters for each customer.

Types of Cloud Services
Whether they are public or private, cloud services generally can be classified into one of the following three types

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