Nutanix Glossary

What is a Cloud Service?

October 21, 2020 | min

Like the name implies, a cloud service is a general term used to describe on-demand services delivered through the cloud. These services are granted to clients and organizations, who in turn can access their applications, workloads, and other resources without specialized hardware or internal infrastructure. Common tasks users can perform include accessing their emails, working on collaborative documents, requesting technical support, and more. Nearly all employees rely on some kind of cloud computing service. 

In addition, cloud services are managed by the cloud service provider. As a result, users can easily and affordably access the information they need without the burden of complex provisioning and management. 

For many organizations, cloud services are attractive because they can easily scale to support and serve a growing user base. Since the cloud service provider is in charge of the hardware and cloud infrastructure behind the technology, the company can minimize resource waste and keep their IT staff on more high-value projects rather than cloud service provisioning activities.

Examples of cloud services and cloud offerings

Various cloud services can be accessed multiple times throughout the day without users explicitly knowing they are using a cloud computing service. Common examples of cloud services include web-based services (e.g., emails), office suites, collaborative drives and documents (e.g., Google Drive and Google Docs), data and backup storage, and more.

In addition, cloud services are closely tied to as-a-service cloud offerings. Namely, software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) are among the most common. 

Though each of the three are widely used, SaaS is the most commonly recognized user-facing offering. SaaS is a software-based model that hosts applications through a network. Applications and data are managed by the organization, whereas the rest, including servers, storage, networking, and more, and managed by the cloud provider. SaaS examples include Google Apps, Dropbox, Salesforce, Cisco WebEx, Microsoft Office 365, and Workday. 

On the other end of the spectrum is PaaS, which describes hardware and software tools delivered through the internet. Developers most frequently use PaaS to build their software and applications rather than purchasing costly infrastructure or starting from scratch with their own complex, time-consuming code. Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Beanstalk, Microsoft Azure, and Magento Commerce Cloud are all examples of PaaS.

Finally, Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) uses the internet to deliver support operations and virtual resources. In this model, a cloud provider is responsible for hosting the infrastructure, which also includes the hardware, the servers, the hypervisor, and other layers. Two of the most well-known IaaS examples include Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. 

Why businesses use cloud services?

There are innumerable benefits to cloud computing as a whole, but cloud services in particular can boost those capabilities while minimizing complexity overall.

In fact, according to the Cloud Security Alliance, approximately 86% of organizations dedicate some part of their IT budget to be used on cloud services, indicating the importance of these services in relation to cloud computing as a whole.

Cloud services offer several advantages that businesses find alluring, including:

  • Businesses can reduce or even eliminate their datacenter footprint by relying on cloud computing services rather than physical servers, the cost of software, and the number of dedicated IT specialists used in a datacenter. 

  • Cloud services offer excellent cost-saving benefits. Compared to traditional datacenter approaches, cloud services offer a more flexible consumption model that allows organizations to pay only for the servers and infrastructure that they need. During lulls, these resources can be de-provisioned and used at a later, more in-need time.

  • Because cloud services are managed by the cloud provider, businesses do not need to worry about maintaining uptime on their own. Instead, they can focus their attention and resources on other activities. As long as Internet access is available, employees can access their data and applications from nearly anywhere in the world.

  • Today’s workforce is mobile, and much of it is remote, so cloud services need to make data and applications available no matter what. Cloud services mean employees can work from anywhere and from any device, including mobile phones and tablets.

  • Finally, collaboration is greatly improved thanks to cloud-based services. Remote teams can work across a single virtual platform, share details in real-time, and work through a shared cloud storage system. In addition, this collaborative benefit means a lower dependency on physical data centers, creating more “green” businesses.

Cloud services vs. web services: what’s the difference?

Nowadays, organizations have several options when it comes to application security products, but most will fall into one of two categories: security testing tools, a well-established market intending to analyze the state of your application security, and security “shielding” tools, which defend and fortify applications to make breaches much more difficult to execute. 

Under the topic of security testing products, there are even more finite categories. First, we have static application security testing, which oversees specific points of code during the application development process, helping developers ensure they aren’t unintentionally creating security gaps during the development process. 

Second, there is dynamic application security testing, which detects security gaps in running code. This method can mimic an attack on a production system and help developers and engineers defend against more sophisticated attack strategies. Both static and dynamic testing are alluring, so it’s no surprise a third one has emerged—interactive testing—which combines the benefits of both.

Finally, mobile application security testing detects, like the name implies, gaps in mobile environments. This method is unique in that it can study the way an attacker uses mobile OS to breach the system and the applications running within it. 

Let’s move onto application “shielding.” As mentioned, tools in this category are meant to “shield” applications against attacks. While that sounds ideal, this is a less established practice, especially when compared to testing tools. Nonetheless, below are the main subcategories within this umbrella of tools.

First, we have runtime application self-protection (RASP), which combines testing and shielding strategies. These tools monitor application behavior in both desktop and mobile environments. RASP services keep developers up-to-date on the state of application security with frequent alerts, and it can even terminate an application if the entire system becomes compromised.

Second and third, code/application obfuscation and encryption/anti-tampering software are two categories that serve essentially the same purpose: preventing cyber criminals from breaching the code of an application.

Lastly, threat detection tools are responsible for analyzing the environment on which applications run. This category of tools can then assess the state of this environment, detect potential threats, and it can even check if a mobile device has been compromised through unique device “fingerprints.” 

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