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Cloud 101: Let’s remove the complexity

Over 90 percent of companies use cloud solutions in some way, from using a single file sharing application to housing their entire enterprise on a cloud native infrastructure. But even though the technology is pervasive with companies rapidly expanding their adoption of cloud solutions, there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding it. Whether your company wants to adopt more cloud technology solutions, or you simply want to know what the cloud is, we can help. Our team put together this guide to walk you through the basics of the cloud, including definitions, different types of technology, benefits, and more so you have a good foundation to understanding what all the buzz is about.  

What is the Cloud? 

At its most basic, the cloud refers to software and services that are stored on internet servers and operate online instead of locally on your computer’s hard drive. When data or an application is stored on the cloud, you can access it remotely from any device with an internet connection. To take it a step further, the cloud allows you to receive IT resources as a service through a provider with the provider taking ownership of the related resources, operation, and processes while you pay a subscription fee to use the service.   

For example, before the cloud, Microsoft Word, Outlook, and other tools had to be installed directly on a computer. All associated data was stored on the computer, and users could only access it from that fixed location while data could only be shared via email.  

On the other hand, Microsoft 365 is a cloud solution that offers Word, Outlook, and several other tools that you can access from anywhere with an internet connection. A mobile application allows you to stay connected even on a phone or tablet, and file sharing and collaboration solutions mean that several people can work within a project simultaneously and see updates in real time. 

Types of Cloud Solutions 

Now that you have an answer to “What is the cloud?” it’s time to dig a little deeper and answer the question, “What are they types of cloud?” There are four specific types of cloud solutions:  

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) 
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) 
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) 
  • On-premises (private cloud) 

Software as a Service (SaaS) 

SaaS offerings are cloud native applications in which the vendor provides access to highly specific services, and your organization does not have to install, configure, or deploy infrastructure to support it. As we said above, the provider handles all maintenance and management.  

SaaS offerings are the most common cloud technology solutions and are generally an organization’s first foray into the cloud. Our example above, Microsoft 365 is a popular example of SaaS, as are: 

  • Salesforce CRM 
  • Dropbox 
  • Google Workspace 

These and similar enterprise products offer cloud computing solutions for all types of organizations and represent the majority of growth in the competitive cloud marketplace. While users may have to sacrifice flexibility, SaaS applications offer a convenient, often affordable solution to a need that is available the moment your organization is ready.  

Platform as a Service (PaaS) 

PaaS are also called cloud platform services and provide a framework that developers use to build and create custom applications. For organizations that build and leverage applications, PaaS offerings are the best of both cloud and customized solutions and represent the greatest total cost of ownership (TCO) and fastest time to market for custom solutions.  

With this type of cloud solution, the vendor or third-party provider manages the infrastructure, including networking, storage, and servers, while your development team members focus on code, data, and integrating the application into the organization. This makes developing, testing, and deploying applications simple, efficient, and cost-effective.  

PaaS applications also offer a variety of characteristics and functionalities, including:  

  • Unlimited, push-button scalability without having to add new code 
  • Transparent and independent infrastructure patching and updates 
  • Simplified distribution across multiple servers 
  • Ability to deploy the application across multiple environments as needed, pay for temporary usage, then scale back when multiple environments are not needed 
  • Unified management portal and application performance management 
  • Integrated web services and databases 
  • Accessible to multiple users via the same development application 

Examples of PaaS include:  

  • AWS Elastic Beanstalk 
  • OpenShift 
  • Microsoft Azure App Service 
  • Google App Engine 

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) 

IaaS is also known as cloud infrastructure services which consist of highly scalable, automated compute resources that are delivered using virtualization technology to support your servers, network, operating systems, and data storage. Organizations can purchase the resources and hardware they need, when they need them, based on existing consumption, creating a scalable alternative to traditional, on-premises datacenters. Unlike SaaS or PaaS, the organization will need to be more hands-on for management and maintenance of applications, operating systems, middleware, and data, but the IaaS vendors will still manage the servers, networking, virtualization, and storage.   

To transition to an IaaS environment, your organization moves your virtual machines from your data center to the cloud infrastructure. Doing so gives you scalable capacity while eliminating the cost of cooling or replacing equipment. The configurations and settings remain the same, the only thing that changes is where your server exists. 

Also, IaaS does not need to be an all or nothing option, and you’re not required to move all your virtual machines to the cloud. In fact, most organizations select a hybrid option where some servers are hosted in the cloud and others are hosted in their own datacenter. Choosing which servers to move depends on factors like cost, hardware lease renewals, or software licensing requirements. For example, if an application is running on outdated hardware, you can move it to a cloud server rather than having to replace the hardware.  

Examples of IaaS include:  

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) 
  • Microsoft Azure 
  • Google Compute Engine 
  • Rackspace 

On-Premises (private cloud) 

In some cases, enterprises may choose an on-premises, private cloud in which you own all the resources. But how does this differ from an on-premises, physical datacenter? A private cloud provides resources like networking, servers, and storage like a service, allowing you to introduce automation and self-service capabilities. This frees up time and improves efficiency for your IT personnel, allowing them to focus on driving business decisions instead of spending their time on repetitive processes or putting out fires.  

A private cloud is ideal for businesses who have already invested heavily in an existing datacenter and don’t want to take on another large expenditure to transition to a public cloud. You can leverage your existing hardware to reap many of the benefits of cloud technology solutions, and as equipment ages and licenses expire, your company can gradually transition to a public cloud.   

You can transform your data center into a private cloud by meeting two goals: 

  • Make your datacenter capable of providing self-service so that staff can request servers, infrastructure, or any other IT request through a centralized solution, such as a portal 
  • Automate your datacenter so that servers, infrastructure, and other IT resources are provisioned, managed, and deprovisioned without IT intervention

Why Choose Cloud Technology Solutions?  

While we’ve touched on some of the benefits of transitioning to cloud computing, we wanted to go into a bit more depth, especially since you’ve already invested in your existing architecture. Do you really need to switch over to having a cloud provider host your machines when you’ve already got the hardware you need?  

The key benefit to the cloud is in how you receive the service these cloud providers offer. They bestow an easy-to-use, configurable way to spin up servers, networks, and storage on demand while also picking up the minutiae of management and maintenance. The vendor is in charge of your hardware, data, and all the processes related to it, such as disaster recovery and capacity management, so your IT team can focus on optimizing opportunities and looking for ways to leverage tech to increase revenue and decrease costs.  

More specifically, there are four key benefits to switching your servers and services to cloud hosting:  

  • Agility 
  • Scalability 
  • Reliability and security 
  • Cost 


Consider how long it takes to provision a full application for your business, assuming you have the resources to do so. First, you would have to discover each tier of the app and determine the hardware needs, and if you don’t have the hardware available, you would have to go through the request and procurement process to get what you need. Of course, you wouldn’t want to overpay for what you don’t need, so you have to right-size the capital expenditure before the app is even in development.  

Once the app is ready, you need to install servers in the datacenter, deploy the virtualization software to the machine, and start building the machines within the specifications. Even if your company diligently purchases and over allocates hardware to anticipate future capacity trends, you’re still unable to rapidly provision servers when your business needs it.  

The cloud lets you provision on demand without the up-front investment or added labor cost. To build an application, you choose the server size, OS, and any other configurations, and you’ll have what you need to launch your application in minutes while paying only for what you need.  

Cloud agility allows your organization to quickly develop, test, and launch software applications that can grow your business while empowering your team to focus on higher priority issues instead of workload tasks.  


Determining capacity is an elusive endeavor for most companies. You’re predicting the resources you need through what you’ve needed in the past while determining growing or decreasing need based on trends. However, predictions aren’t always right, which can lead to a serious problem down the road for your company. Invest in too much and you’re wasting money, but invest in too little and it’s very hard to acquire the additional hardware and resources you need and integrate them into your existing infrastructure. 

The cloud eliminates this challenge because the resources you need are there when you need them. Whether you need to scale up or down, you pay for what you’re using at that point in time. For example, if you have a retail company and need 5,000 more web servers to handle Black Friday and holiday shopping rushes, that’s not a problem with cloud technology solutions. After the holiday sales boom has ended, you can scale back down to your normal amount. Being able to focus on right-sizing existing resources is the norm with the cloud.  

Reliability and Security 

Having your own servers and keeping your data in house allows you to control risk, build your cybersecurity, and create strategies surrounding business continuity and disaster recovery. But if you switch to cloud solutions, will you still have the security and reliability you need for your business? 

Cloud providers have spent significant time and resources to pass security and regulatory agencies like PCI, HIPAA, and Sarbanes-Oxley as well as keeping and security data. These providers know that a data breach would be a disaster, most likely culminating in lawsuits and a loss of business and reputation, so they have invested heavily in security and reliability measures.  

Also, you will always own your data. Even when it’s hosted on the cloud, your data is secure and cloud providers’ disaster recovery service-level agreements (SLAs) are unmatched.  


Cloud technology solutions are incredibly cost-effective compared to on-premise infrastructure. Subscription based services allow your organization to budget easily rather than make a large expenditure all at once and as your organization grows, you can add on or improve your services.  

Also, making the shift to the cloud doesn’t have to occur in one lift-and-shift process. Instead, companies concerned about cost can take a gradual or hybrid approach like we outlined above to keep costs low.  

If you’re interested in bringing more cloud technology into your organization, but you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed or you’re not sure where to start, we can help. Reach out to our cloud experts today to get started! 

About the author

New Era Technology

New Era Technology creates powerful digital, data, and technology solutions that keep companies moving forward in a rapidly changing world. Our 500+ consultants use data insights, experience design, and tech innovation to help you reimagine your business for whatever comes next.

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