Key Characteristics of Cloud Computing Technology

* Cost is greatly reduced and capital expenditure is converted to operational expenditure. This lowers barriers to entry, as infrastructure is typically provided by a third-party and does not need to be purchased for one-time or infrequent intensive computing tasks. Pricing on a utility computing basis is fine-grained with usage-based options and minimal or no IT skills are required for implementation.

* Device and location independence enable users to access systems using a web browser regardless of their location or what device they are using, e.g., PC, mobile. As infrastructure is off-site (typically provided by a third-party) and accessed via the Internet the users can connect from anywhere.

* Multi-tenancy enables sharing of resources and costs among a large pool of users, allowing for:
o Centralization of infrastructure in areas with lower costs (such as real estate, electricity, etc.)
o Peak-load capacity increases (users need not engineer for highest possible load-levels)
o Utilization and efficiency improvements for systems that are often only 10-20% utilized.

* Reliability improves through the use of multiple redundant sites, which makes it suitable for business continuity and disaster recovery. Nonetheless, most major cloud computing services have suffered outages and IT and business managers are able to do little when they are affected.

* Scalability via dynamic (“on-demand”) provisioning of resources on a fine-grained, self-service basis near real-time, without users having to engineer for peak loads. Performance is monitored and consistent and loosely-coupled architectures are constructed using web services as the system interface.

* Security typically improves due to centralization of data, increased security-focused resources, etc., but raises concerns about loss of control over certain sensitive data. Security is often as good as or better than traditional systems, in part because providers are able to devote resources to solving security issues that many customers cannot afford. Providers typically log accesses, but accessing the audit logs themselves can be difficult or impossible.

* Sustainability comes about through improved resource utilization, more efficient systems, and carbon neutrality. Nonetheless, computers and associated infrastructure are major consumers of energy.

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