What is a cloud application? Here's everything you need to know about the internet-based software

What is a cloud application? Here's everything you need to know about the internet-based software
Common cloud services include iCloud and Dropbox, which help you manage your data storage.blackCAT/Getty Images
  • A cloud application is internet-based software that processes or stores data online.
  • There are three main kinds of cloud applications: Software as a Service, Platform as a Service, and Infrastructure as a Service.
  • Here's a brief overview of what you need to know about cloud applications.

In the last decade, cloud computing has radically remade the technology landscape. Today, many common applications have moved from acting as local clients on your computer or mobile device to running from the internet. This trend has so many advantages that it's unlikely to slow down.



What is a cloud application?

A cloud application is an internet-based program in which at least some of the processing and storage takes place on the internet, which is referred to metaphorically as "the cloud." The application's front end may run as an app or in a web browser, but key elements, such as data storage, are online.

What is a cloud application? Here's everything you need to know about the internet-based software
Many common apps you use every day, like Dropbox, are Software as a Service cloud applications.Dave Johnson/Business Insider

There are three primary kinds of cloud applications:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): In the case of IaaS, a third party provides the hardware and infrastructure that a software developer uses to run its application (along with any necessary middleware and support). For example, Amazon offers its Amazon Web Services (AWS) for developers to build and deploy their cloud applications.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): PaaS is very similar to IaaS, but a PaaS vendor includes not just the infrastructure, but also the operating system and middleware needed to serve as the "connective tissue" for the cloud application, meaning that developers can more easily just "plug into" the platform. The Google App Engine is a good example of a PaaS - it's a hosting service offered by Google that allows developers to quickly and efficiently deploy cloud apps.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS): SaaS is one of the most common examples of cloud applications and one that's most familiar to ordinary users. In this version of a cloud application, the publisher provides both the cloud-based software and the hardware and infrastructure on which it runs. You're probably already familiar with a number of examples, including Dropbox and Google Workspace (formerly known as Google G Suite).

Why cloud applications are growing in popularity

Cloud computing offers lower startup costs, economies of scale, and other advantages.

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Advantages of cloud applications:

  • Lower costs. There are lower infrastructure and IT costs associated with cloud applications because someone else is hoisting the software - this means a developer doesn't need to invest in servers and associated infrastructure.
  • More scalable. It's easier to scale a cloud application up or down in response to user demand because demand isn't tied to physical resources on-site, and developers don't need to invest in capacity they might not need.
  • Greater reliability. Like scalability, having access to cloud resources for your application means you potentially have access to more computing power and bandwidth than would be practical on-site. That means more reliability and uptime.

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