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Essential characteristics of cloud services

These are part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s definition of cloud computing. Public cloud services, like the other types of cloud services, must show these characteristics.

On-demand self-service

Without any interaction with the cloud service provider’s staff, customers can set up resources — for example, a virtual server or an email account.

Broad network access

Customers can access resources over networks using a widely available client from a range of client devices.

Example of broad network access

Over the internet, a customer accesses resources using a web browser from client devices — such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Resource pooling

The service provider has a pool of computing resources, which are used to serve multiple customers.

Virtualisation technologies are often used to:

  • support multiple customers using the pool of computing resources
  • allow computing resources to be dynamically assigned and reallocated based on customer demand.

Rapid elasticity

Based on demand, the cloud service can quickly set up and release, sometimes automatically, resources.

Customers can easily increase or decrease their use of a cloud service to meet their current needs.

Measured service

Customers pay only for the resources they actually use within the service.

The provider of cloud services usually sets up a dashboard so customers can track their usage.

More information —

Learn about the different ways to deliver services using cloud, including ownership and responsibility for security controls in each type of service model.

Service models for public cloud

Read about the benefits of the public cloud model for deploying cloud services.

Public cloud versus other types of cloud

More information — other sources

See the full definition of cloud computing published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The NIST definition of cloud computing — NIST

When explaining the models of shared responsibility for security, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) refers to the NIST definition of cloud computing and its essential characteristics.

Cloud computing: shared responsibility security models — NCSC

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has guidance about cloud computing’s:

  • overview and vocabulary — ISO/IEC 17788:2014
  • reference architecture — ISO/IEC 17789:2014.

Publicly available standards — ISO

Utility links and page information

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