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Characteristics of Cloud Computing

Now that you have a general overview of the topic of Cloud Computing and know what a cloud is, the next step is to take a closer look at the key features of this IT trend.

The federal authority NIST (the abbreviation stands for National Institute of Standards and Technology) from USA has already published a report on Cloud Computing in 2011. According to this report, there are five important characteristics that make up Cloud Computing.

These characteristic features of are as follows:

  • On-demand Self Service
  • Broad Network Access
  • Resource Pooling
  • Rapid Elasticity
  • Measured Services

Before we define each of these characteristics in more detail, here is a brief example:


Imagine that you have a small business but need to process and store very large amounts of data.

You may be dealing with high-resolution image and video files that take up a lot of disk space. Your old hard drive is already pretty full.

In a few months, you may receive a very large order, which will involve much more data. But it is also possible that you will not get the order after all – your customers will want to decide at short notice.

What are you doing?

Now you are in a dilemma! Do you want to afford a new very expensive hard disk? And if so, how big should it be? And what if the job doesn’t work out after all? Then you would have invested in new expensive hardware that you don’t even need at the moment and that would gather dust in your equipment storage room.

Perhaps you already realise that in this case Cloud Computing is a good solution. Instead of buying a new hard drive, simply rent storage capacity from a cloud provider.

You can decide and adjust how much storage space you want to use. If you need more, you pay more. If you need less, you pay less.

The full capacity of the cloud is available to you at the touch of a button and you are completely flexible.

This example already illustrates some of the main features of Cloud Computing. Let’s go through them together.

As mentioned above, an important feature of Cloud Computing is the so-called on-demand self-service. This simply means self-service.

With Cloud Computing, you can independently access IT services from the cloud – exactly when you need them. You don’t have to make a phone call or write an email first to get more storage space, for example. Access is automatic. You don’t need to communicate with the cloud provider.


On-demand Self Service

… means that cloud services are accessed automatically, i.e. without interaction with the cloud providers.

So, you help yourself. You simply take as many cloud resources (e.g. storage space, computing power) as you need at the moment and don’t have to ask the cloud provider first. 

Another important feature of Cloud Computing is the Broad Network Access. This means that Cloud Computing services are offered over a network, usually the Internet.

This means that you can use the cloud services via a wide variety of end devices (PC, laptop, smartphone, etc.) and are not tied to a specific location. You have access to the services and data anytime and anywhere. The only requirement is access to an Internet connection.


Broad Network Access

… means that cloud services are accessed over a network and you are not tied to a specific device.

So, you can access cloud resources anywhere and with any Internet-enabled device (laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc.). 

Another very characteristic feature of Cloud Computing is resource pooling. This means that the IT resources (e.g. storage space, computing power) are virtually available in a large shared “pool”. From this pool of shared resources many people can then help themselves.

It should be noted that users do not know from which specific servers the IT resources are currently obtained.

Imagine it this way: Suppose you share a swimming pool with your neighbours. When you fill it, everyone supplies water from their own garden hose. In the pool itself, however, you then no longer know which water drop comes from which garden hose.


Resource Pooling

… means that the IT resources are available in a common pool and many different people can use them.

In the process, the IT resources of different servers flow together. So, the person using Cloud Computing does not know from which server exactly the resources are obtained.


Another very essential feature of Cloud Computing is Rapid Elasticity. IT resources are made available quickly and elastically, i.e. flexibly and adapted to requirements.

Do you remember the example before? We asked ourselves the question whether you should buy a new hard disk for your company and if so, how big it should be. Because you didn’t know how much storage capacity you actually needed, you would have probably bought a far too large hard disk. You would have spent more money than you actually needed. At the same time, you would have probably had to invest in a new hard drive again after a while if your business grew. On the other hand, if your business stagnates or shrinks, the brand-new hard drive would be around unused.

With Cloud Computing you don’t have these problems. You can quickly and flexibly rent or cancel IT resources. Simply and precisely to the extent that you need the resources at the time.

This feature of Cloud Computing is sometimes referred to as scalability. This means that IT resources can grow with your needs or your business. At the touch of a button, you can extend or limit the use of cloud services – as needed.


Rapid Elasticity

… means that with Cloud Computing you can quickly and flexibly adapt IT usage to your actual needs

Cloud services are infinitely expandable. So, you can purchase services such as storage capacity and computing power at peak times in your company. When you no longer need the services, simply reduce your usage. This allows you to react quickly and flexibly to economic developments. 

The last feature of Cloud Computing that you will learn about at this point is called Measured Services. This means that the cloud provider continuously measures and monitors the use of IT services by the individual. In this way the provider ensures that you always have as many resources available as you need. At the same time, only what you use is charged.


Measured Services

… means that the use of IT services is measured and controlled by the provider.

The cloud provider controls and optimises the allocation of IT resources. This means that with Cloud Computing, you usually pay no fixed fee, but according to consumption.

This would now explain the five most important features of Cloud Computing. Let us summarise them again:


Cloud Computing is characterized by: (1) On-demand Self Service, (2) Broad Network Access, (3) Resource Pooling, (4) Rapid Elasticity and (5) Measured Services.

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