By now, you’ve probably heard a great deal about the cloud, but all the hype means nothing if you’re still not up to date with the jargon. That’s why we’ve compiled a glossary of common cloud computing terms that are worth familiarizing yourself with.
Application programming interface (API)
An API is a set of functions that software developers and systems integrators can use to add new features to an application. The key advantage is that using APIs to build bespoke systems saves time, since there’s no need to program your own functions from scratch.
Content delivery network (CDN)
A CDN refers to a distributed network of server computers that deliver content like websites, online storage, and web applications to end users based on their geographical location. The CDN will choose the closest server to you for a faster and more reliable service.
Data centers are facilities housing large groups of networked server computers organizations used to access on-demand compute power and online storage. Modern data centers are highly secure facilities with advanced cabling and climate-control infrastructure.
Elasticity refers to the ability of a system to adapt to computing workloads by provisioning new resources and de-provisioning them automatically when they’re no longer needed. Most cloud providers offer this sort of infrastructure, since it’s more efficient and cost-effective.
A hybrid cloud refers to a mix of remotely hosted and in-house computing resources. A lot of companies maintain a hybrid cloud infrastructure to keep highly specialized workloads on-site while taking advantage of the lower costs and flexibility of the cloud for everyday operations.
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
One of the three main cloud computing models, IaaS provides computing infrastructure namely security, monitoring, backup, recovery, redundancy and load balancing, over the internet. IaaS providers offer access to a wide range of important business technology functions, such as data storage, servers, and networking.
In cloud computing, an “instance” refers to a virtual machine running in a remote data center and delivered over a network like the internet. A single physical machine, typically a powerful server, can run multiple instances at the same time to greatly increase efficiency.
Few small- to medium-sized businesses can afford to maintain their own in-house technology departments, which is why most choose to outsource critical everyday functions like storage and security to a managed IT services provider (MSP).
Platform as a service (PaaS)
PaaS is one of the three primary cloud computing models. PaaS is most commonly used for the development of proprietary web applications and other systems. In other words, it gives business users the means to develop a highly customized cloud computing infrastructure.
A private cloud is a deployment model whereby physical computing resources delivered to a client aren’t shared with anyone else. As such, they’re typically highly customizable and more secure, residing in their own environments.
Most cloud deployments use the public cloud in which the physical computing resources are shared with multiple clients (also known as tenants) for greater efficiency and reduced costs. Major public cloud providers include Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.
Service level agreement (SLA)
When partnering with any technology service provider, the SLA is one of the most important documents you’ll sign. It specifies the provider’s commitment to offer a minimum uptime and a maximum response time to customer support requests.
Software as a service (SaaS)
By far the most common model of cloud computing, SaaS refers to any computer application that runs in a browser, as opposed to those installed locally. Examples include web-based email like Gmail or Hotmail and online productivity suites like Office 365 and Google Docs.
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)
A VDI is a desktop operating system delivered through the cloud. The VDI itself functions a lot like a normal desktop computer, except that it’s entirely software-defined and runs alongside other VDIs on a remote server. The main advantage, however, is that it’s accessible anywhere from any device.
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