Cloud computing is a growing sector of the IT market that benefits businesses by offering scalable infrastructure and software off site, saving labor, hardware, and power costs. By transforming IT to a known periodic cost, companies can manage their budgets while ensuring that adequate resources are always available. The cloud portion of the cloud computing vs. virtualization debate comes in the form of both software and infrastructure services.
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offers scalable computing power to companies without requiring them to bring hardware services in house. By converting infrastructure to a periodic and predictable cost a company can avoid unexpected repairs and upgrades while being assured of maximum uptime. IaaS provides for the scaling of processing power so that they are never caught in the position of overload while avoiding the costs of underutilized capacity. The latest technologies are always deployed, and the cost of IT staffing is reduced along with the reduced maintenance, upgrade and support overhead. IaaS provides infrastructure as needed to support businesses running their own applications.
Software as a Service (SaaS) goes a step beyond IaaS by offloading applications to hosted services. This minimizes need for onsite infrastructure and - because most applications rely on browser based interfaces - are less demanding in terms of desktop and mobile hardware. Because users have access to business applications from any location, employee travel and commuting are reduced, lowering the environmental footprint of a business. Because SaaS is effective in reducing support costs, it eases IT staffing requirements without compromising productivity. SaaS is scalable too, with users and features either added or removed in real time.
Complaints surrounding cloud services usually include reliability issues, with the connection between users and hosts to blame. Other concerns involve cost. Often basic cloud services come in at remarkable prices, but become disproportionately costly as features and users are added. Also, some charge that hosting mission critical data and applications via hosted services presents security risks that are prohibitively high.