Nutanix Glossary

What is Cloud Service?

November 3, 2023 | min

What is cloud service?

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 a 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.

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How do cloud services work?

Cloud services are services hosted by a cloud service provider. The provider virtualizes software and applications that reside on their physical servers in massive datacenters. The virtualized services are then available for customers to access through the Internet. With a simple online connection, users can access applications and services without having to house a lot of physical hardware or install software on their devices. Saving data “to the cloud” means saving information on a remote server owned by a cloud service provider, rather than on your company’s own servers.

Cloud service providers typically charge customers who use their services on either a monthly subscription or per-use basis—which can often make cloud services much less expensive for an organization because they don’t have to host (and manage, maintain, update, etc.) specific software in their own on-premises datacenter.

When speaking of services, cloud services could be any number of things, including servers, software applications, networks, databases, analytics platforms, AI programs, online services for banking, shopping, chatting with friends, and much more. Cloud service providers host, manage, and maintain datacenters and related storage, compute power, and networking resources. They also maintain security on their physical hardware and provide some security features for users who access data and applications through the cloud.

What are the benefits of 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, recent research shows that by 2025, approximately 51% of an organization’s IT budget will be used for the development and operations of cloud-based systems. This demonstrates the significant expansion of cloud services, especially when compared to the fact that cloud-based systems development and operations made up just 41% of the IT budget in 2022. 

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

  • Reduced need for hardware. Businesses can reduce or even eliminate their datacenter footprint by relying on cloud computing services rather than physical servers and reduce the number of dedicated IT specialists needed in a datacenter. 

  • Excellent cost savings. 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 time if needed.

  • Decreased IT burden. 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.

  • Anytime, anywhere access. 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.

  • Enhanced collaboration. 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.

How are cloud services used?

Today, there are thousands of ways to use cloud services. Most companies offer online services, even if it’s something as simple as logging in to check your account details. People expect organizations to offer convenient cloud services to make and check in for appointments, make purchases, transfer funds, get medical test results, get school grades, sign up for classes, order prescriptions, and much more. And it’s not just consumer services—businesses use cloud services just as often.

Here are some of the most common cloud services used by modern organizations: 

  • Email – Most people use cloud services for email today, even if their organization has an email server. That’s because employees like to use a variety of devices and access email wherever they are, whenever they need to. Email services through the cloud keep colleagues in close touch.
  • Collaboration services – Chat and file sharing spaces, such as Slack or WebEx, allow work teams to consult each other and collaborate regardless of where each team member is located.
  • Meeting services – Similar to collaboration services, online meeting applications allow organizations to meet together with clients, coworkers, partners, investors, and other stakeholders all over the world.
  • Big data analytics – Data is a primary asset for any organization and modern analytics programs are allowing leaders to gain critical insights into their operations, processes, products, and other areas to see how they can streamline, save money, and make things more efficient.
  • Software development – Many cloud services facilitate software and app development, which is critical for organizations so they can offer the online services their customers want.
  • AI and machine learning platforms – AI and machine learning are becoming increasingly common in enterprise spaces, as organizations apply these cutting-edge technologies to their most critical challenges.
  • Data backup and recovery – Many organizations use online backup and recovery services managed by third-party providers to ensure that their data and applications are still available in the event of a security breach or system malfunction.
  • Security and compliance – Some providers also offer convenient online security and compliance applications that help organizations adhere to ever-evolving (and increasingly complex) security and privacy mandates. 
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Types of cloud services

Cloud services are closely tied to as-a-service cloud offering types: software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). 

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

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, servers, hypervisor, and other layers. These components usually encompass computing, storage, operating systems, virtualization, and networking, with some providers even extending their services to include databases and message queuing. Think of it as having a virtualized datacenter in the cloud that users interact with through an API or dashboard. While this grants users substantial control, they are still tasked with overseeing the management of the operating system, middleware, runtime environment, applications, and data. Two of the most well-known IaaS examples include Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

PaaS supplies the essential elements for software development, testing, execution, and upkeep. This encompasses infrastructure, operating systems, middleware, development environments, and developer tools. 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. Typically, users connect to this platform through the Internet, enabling them to concentrate on their applications without the need to handle resource management. With PaaS, users have the flexibility to deploy either standardized or customized applications, leveraging supported programming languages, scripts, APIs, and tools. Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Beanstalk, Microsoft Azure, and Magento Commerce Cloud are all examples of PaaS.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

SaaS is the most commonly recognized user-facing offering. It represents an operational approach in which applications are cloud-hosted, accessible to users via the Internet. Applications and data are managed by the organization, whereas the rest, including servers, storage, networking, and more, are managed by the cloud provider. SaaS examples include Google Apps, Dropbox, Salesforce, Cisco WebEx, Microsoft Office 365, and Workday. 

Anything-as-a-Service (XaaS)

Anything-as-a-Service (XaaS) refers to a broad category of cloud computing services where various resources and capabilities are provided over the Internet as a service. It is a flexible and scalable model that allows organizations to access and utilize a wide range of technology-related resources and services, from traditional infrastructure components like computing power and storage (IaaS) to software applications (SaaS) and many other services in between.

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 beneficial, so it’s no surprise a third one has emerged—interactive testing—which combines the benefits of both.

Finally, mobile application security testing, like the name implies, detects gaps in mobile environments. This method is unique in that it can study the way an attacker uses a 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 that fall under 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 cybercriminals 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 can even check if a mobile device has been compromised through unique device “fingerprints.”

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