Coud computing simply put, is a method of using computational resources on demand via a computer network, such as applications, databases, file services, email, etc. In the traditional model of computing, both data and software are fully contained on the user's computer; however in a cloud environment, the user's server may contain almost no software or data (perhaps a minimal operating system and web browser only), serving as little more than a display terminal for processes occurring on a network of computers far away. A common shorthand for a provided cloud hosting service (or even an aggregation of all existing cloud services) is "The Cloud".
The main characteristics of cloud computing/hosting is that the computing is "in the cloud"; meaning the processing (and the related data) is not in a specified, known or static place(s). This is in contrast to a model in which the processing takes place in one or more specific servers that are known. All the other concepts mentioned are supplementary or complementary to this concept.
In order to obtain compliance with regulations including FISMA, HIPAA and SOX in the United States, the Data Protection Directive in the EU and the credit card industry's PCI DSS, users may have to adopt community or hybrid deployment modes which are typically more expensive and may offer restricted benefits. This is how Google is able to "manage and meet additional government policy requirements beyond FISMA and Rackspace Cloud are able to claim PCI compliance. Customers in the EU contracting with cloud providers established outside the EU/EEA have to adhere to the EU regulations on export of personal data. Many providers also obtain SAS 70 Type II certification (e.g. Amazon, Salesforce.com, Google and Microsoft), but this has been criticised on the grounds that the hand-picked set of goals and standards determined by the auditor and the auditee are often not disclosed.
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