13 Characteristics of Cloud Computing: Scalability, Security, Availability, and More

Image of three streams of cubes in varying shades of blue and purple emanating from three slits on a graphic of a cloud.
Data and services provided through cloud computing.

In the last couple of decades, industries have been migrating from traditional, on-premises IT to cloud computing infrastructures. The COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated this gradual shift. Companies needed to find a secure, efficient, reliable, and scalable method to enable remote work. That’s where the cloud came into play! 

The cloud also has several other attributes that pushed the mass migration. What are they? In this guide, I’ve neatly summarized 13 different cloud computing characteristics that attract businesses. 

Before diving into these, allow me to give you a brief introduction to cloud computing. 

What Is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing delivers various IT-related services, on-demand, through the internet. The cloud follows a self-service model: you select your deployments yourself. Some cloud computing services also include computing, storage, analytics, and applications, to name a few. Underneath those services are pooled virtualized computing resources to share among multiple tenants. 

I’ll dive into further details once I start discussing the cloud computing characteristics. Once you become familiar with the various characteristics of cloud computing, you’ll also understand why many businesses have been steadily moving their operation to the cloud. This article will be an eye-opener, so let’s get the ball rolling. 

13 Cloud Computing Characteristics 

As mentioned earlier, the cloud is attracting businesses worldwide. Consider this: companies are looking for ways to maximize their efficiency and minimize their costs. They’re also looking to increase their security with less downtime and interruptions. If so, they need a scalable, affordable, efficient, and secure infrastructure. In turn, they’ll turn to the cloud. Read these 13 cloud computing characteristics below to understand what makes the cloud so desirable. You’ll also get to know more about its basic functions!

1. Utilizes Resource Pooling

Cloud computing pools together an array of computing resources, like CPU, memory, network bandwidth, and storage. That’s called resource pooling. The cloud service provider (CSP) will then distribute resources from that pool to consumers. Resource pooling maximizes resource utilization and improves resiliency against individual component failures.

When is this useful, though? Suppose you have different tenants in different time zones. Your tenants will also have different usage patterns and peaks. That means they don’t all need the same resources at the same time! At that, the CSP will reallocate said resources to the consumers who currently need them.

2. Enables On-Demand and Self-Service Functionality

Cloud users can provision and deploy servers and applications on their own. That’s why it’s a self-service model!
Traditional IT environments don’t give you this level of autonomy. IT admins have to wait for procurement/purchasing officers to acquire the physical servers. Meanwhile, users also have to wait for IT admins to provision and deploy the configured servers before proceeding with their tasks. 

Conversely, cloud users can deploy servers whenever they want! You can launch a server instance or any cloud resource on-demand. The cloud’s on-demand and self-service capabilities are also highly beneficial to users, IT admins, and business leaders. These features allow you to do away with all the bureaucratic red tape that delays several IT processes. They also free up time for individuals normally involved in these processes. Think of all the things you can do now that you don’t need to wait for servers and configurations!  

3. Provides Broad Network Access

Cloud computing services are accessible through the web. Given the internet’s widespread support from a broad range of network providers, cloud services are virtually accessible from almost anywhere! Think about it. The internet receives support from traditional fixed-line Internet Service Providers (ISPs), cable TV network providers, telecommunications companies, and even satellite constellations (i.e., Starlink)!

This spread-out adoption also allows you to access cloud services from almost any endpoint device, including PCs, laptops, thin clients, smartphones, and tablets. This broad network access capability makes cloud computing the perfect fit if you’re operating across the globe. It’ll also allow you to support remote workers

Image of a smiling lady sitting on a wooden platform, with a cup by her side and clouds and the sea serving as backdrop
Cloud computing also enables remote work!

4. Simplifies Maintenance Tasks

When you migrate your IT infrastructure to the cloud, you no longer worry about the underlying physical infrastructure. You don’t need to maintain physical servers, routers, switches, storage systems, or the physical network. If you run your IT infrastructure from an on-premises data center, you also don’t have to maintain racks, cooling systems, and power generators. 

Everything you need to manage and maintain is in software form. In most cases, you can administer it from a single administrative interface. The cloud also hosts the administrative interface, so you can carry out management and maintenance tasks anywhere

5. Drives Scalability and Rapid Elasticity

Provisioning and deploying a cloud-based virtual server instance is fast and easy. You can do it with just a few clicks and in just a couple of minutes. Then, once you have a clone (a.k.a. an image of that instance), you can create new instances off of that image. This will allow you to quickly scale up your infrastructure. You can also terminate those instances to scale down quickly! 

You can even scale your infrastructure automatically if you leverage certain cloud services like auto-scaling. An auto-scaling service will monitor your server instances. Then, it’ll launch or terminate instances based on demand. This scalability and elasticity also make the cloud suitable for seasonal demand or for rapidly growing businesses.  

The cloud can grow with your company. You don’t need to worry about your resources becoming inadequate when your company evolves. Many businesses are then flocking to the cloud because it also allows them to grow comfortably, without any limits.

6. Institutes Cost Effective Processes 

Cloud computing enables IT admins to finish tasks much faster. What would usually take days, weeks, or months to complete now only takes hours or sometimes even minutes. You still need to address operational costs though. You still need to pay for the cloud resources you use. That said, considering how much you’re able to accomplish in a significantly shorter time, cloud computing is very cost-effective. It truly gives you your money’s worth

7. Delivers Measured Service and Detailed Reporting

Most cloud services are billed based on actual usage. For example, if you use a particular server instance for 50 hours, you’ll only be billed for that consumption. The concept is similar to the measured services (a.k.a. metered services) of public utilities, like electricity and water, except cloud services collect substantially greater data. 

The sizable amount of usage data gathered allows CSPs to generate detailed reports about your consumption. You can drill down a report to view the specific usage for instances at different times. These detailed reports are essential, too. Although cloud computing lets you save on upfront costs, ongoing costs can rapidly escalate if you don’t monitor and manage them properly. When you get detailed reports, you can make necessary adjustments to your consumption and fix any potential errors. That way, you also ensure you’re in control of your spending!

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8. Improves Security

One of the perceived challenges of cloud computing is the security or lack thereof. This is a misconception, though. Cloud environments are highly secure, especially if you’re talking about those operated by large CSPs such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. These large CSPs can leverage economies of scale to deploy enterprise-grade security to the underlying data center facilities. This security standard also goes all the way up to the cloud services you directly interact with. 

Your CSP will often give you a selection of security services. This usually includes data-at-rest and data-in-motion encryption, key management, identity and access control, and DDoS protection, among many others. In addition to these CSP-provided services, you can also purchase additional security services from your CSP’s partner network to enhance your defenses.  

Security is an important, attractive selling point for the cloud. Companies want to minimize the risks to their data, but they don’t want to handle the security themselves. On the cloud, the CSP handles your data’s security: you just have to follow some best practices.

9. Enables Automation

The cloud automates many processes, so it’s highly scalable and cost-efficient. Usually, your CSP will provide tools that can help you automate various IT operations. Cloud environments also enable you to manage your IT infrastructure with scripts and configuration files through Infrastructure as Code (IaC). IaC allows you to apply version control to configuration files, so it guarantees more speed. It also enables consistency, efficiency, and accountability while decreasing costs. Imagine how much faster you’ll be now that you’re automating your processes!

10. Enhances Resiliency and Availability

When talking about IT infrastructure, resiliency refers to an infrastructure’s ability to recover quickly from disruption. On the other hand, availability measures an infrastructure’s ability to remain accessible for one year. This measurement is typically expressed in percentages, like 99% (3.65 days of downtime), 99.9% (8.76 hours of downtime), 99.99% (50 minutes of downtime), and 99.999% (5 minutes of downtime). 

Due to their scalability and automation capabilities, cloud environments enable you to easily apply redundancy throughout your IT infrastructure. Redundancy is a crucial building block in highly resilient and available infrastructures. It allows active components to failover if they become overloaded or encounter issues.

You can always count on the cloud. It’s a highly reliable infrastructure that won’t leave you hanging when you need it. Businesses migrate to the cloud because it’s highly available. You don’t need to worry about downtimes and/or disruptions! That also facilitates highly efficient workplaces, boosting your productivity.

11. Supports Multi-Tenancy

Cloud environments are multi-tenant by design. For private clouds, business units from the same organization share the infrastructure. For public clouds, customers (different organizations) share the underlying infrastructure

The multi-tenant nature of cloud environments is one of the reasons why some businesses prefer private clouds over public clouds. They fear that data leaks would expose their data to other companies. While this is a valid concern, most CSPs already institute multiple logical separation mechanisms to minimize the risk of a data leak. For example, they use virtual private clouds, host isolation, and instance isolation. If you choose to use a public cloud, you can rest assured that your CSP is taking care of your data properly. That gives you one less thing to worry about! 

12. Promotes Service Excellence

CSPs are bound by service level agreements (SLAs) that ensure they maintain a minimum level of quality and availability for their cloud services. Most of these levels are also exceptionally high (99.99% and 99.999%). 

If you deliver an application hosted in the cloud, you can benefit from these availability levels. Then, you’ll pass them on to your end-users. You and your end-users can then enjoy these services with very minimal downtime

You don’t need to worry about your customers complaining about a drop in service quality! The cloud also promises to keep you (and your end-users) satisfied!

13. Provides a Comfortable Payment Structure

Cloud services often follow a consumption-based payment structure. In this operating expense (OPEX)-based structure, you only pay for the resources you use. It’s very different from the capital expense (CAPEX)-based model of traditional IT, where you have to acquire your IT equipment first, and consequently, pay a huge upfront cost. In cloud computing architecture, the upfront cost is practically zero

This flexible payment scheme can also level the playing field for small and medium-sized businesses. It allows them to leverage enterprise-grade IT infrastructure, even if they can’t afford the upfront cost. It’s also ideal for businesses operating in seasonal industries where computing demand ebbs and flows. If you’re running a business that only requires high computing capacity once a year, you wouldn’t want to pay for maximum capacity the rest of the year, would you? Only cloud computing will allow you to do that. 

Final Words

Those 13 cloud computing characteristics should make you appreciate the cloud’s value. Companies worldwide flock to cloud computing because it’s highly available, scalable, and secure. The IT landscape is ever-evolving, and the cloud is bringing many new features to the table. It’s enabling remote work possibilities, without sacrificing security. The cloud is also ideal for growing businesses because it can scale up with them, without increasing the costs too much. If you were considering moving to the cloud, now’s the perfect chance. It’ll save you time, boost your productivity, and increase your security! Migrate your operations to the cloud and move forward with the evolving IT scene

Have more questions about the cloud? Check out the FAQ and Resources sections below. 

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FAQ

How can the cloud create business value?

Cloud computing can eliminate IT infrastructure upfront costs. What’s more, the cloud can also help your business grow in several ways. Improved collaboration, business continuity, and employee empowerment are some of them.  

What is Infrastructure as Code (IaC)?

Infrastructure as Code, or IaC, is the process of automating IT infrastructure management to on-premises or cloud infrastructures. To do that, it uses configuration files. IaC also makes management faster and easier. If you want to make changes to a target environment in your IT infrastructure, simply apply changes to the configuration files. That way, you don’t have to do it manually in the target environment. 

What is cloud cost management?

The cloud cost management process monitors, analyzes, and controls costs associated with cloud services usage. It’s also a critical part of cloud adoption. Without it, your cloud usage costs can quickly get out of hand. Some CSP-provided and third-party tools can help you manage your costs. In some cases, you might want to hire a professional to do the nitty-gritty stuff for you.

What is VDI?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI, is a virtualization solution that delivers virtualized applications and desktops from a central location to various endpoint devices. VDI applications and desktops can be hosted in the cloud and delivered remotely to PCs, laptops, phones, tablets, and thin clients. 

Resources

TechGenix: a Guide to Azure Site Recovery

Dive into the details of Azure’s disaster-recovery-as-a-service offering in this article.

TechGenix: an Unbiased Review of The Lift-And-Shift Method

Get a closer look at the pros and cons of lift-and-shift cloud migration in this article.  

TechGenix: AWS v. Azure Article Featuring Government Cloud Contracts

Take a front-row seat to another AWS v. Azure face-off in this article.

TechGenix: Article on The Resistance To Cloud Adoption 

Understand the underlying reasons for why companies are resisting cloud adoption in this article.

TechGenix: a Walkthrough of Azure Migrate

Get an inside look at the Azure Migrate cloud migration tool in this article.

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