Components of Cloud Computing: Introduction to the Basics

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Cloud applications are increasingly common in our digital world. Yet, how do the components of cloud computing work? This introduction helps you understand the basic elements of cloud architecture.

[Featured Image] A programmer sits at his laptop working on components of cloud computing.

Cloud computing has gained popularity in recent years. The government is investing in public cloud initiatives such as Meghraj, and India’s chief information officers are also investing in cloud system infrastructure. Gartner forecasts a 40 percent increase in cloud infrastructure investments, reaching $2.4 billion in 2022 [1]. Yet you may be wondering what the components of cloud computing are that all this interest is focused on. This article will help by outlining the fundamentals of cloud computing.

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing enables users to access software, storage space, servers, databases, networks, and other tools and applications over the internet. Data and files were previously maintained only on a local hard drive or storage device. Now, thanks to cloud infrastructure, you only need an internet connection to access your resources in the cloud. Cloud architecture allows people to access files and the infrastructure required to run programs anywhere and on any device with a web browser.

Cloud advantages

The most significant advantages of cloud computing include:

  • Scalability: You can quickly increase your resources without installing IT hardware or software to make it possible. Scaling back is also simple.

  • Savings: You only pay for what you use and don’t have to invest in the actual hardware or software, as the vendor takes care of that.

  • Speed: Connecting to resources online on a cloud provider’s powerful servers can be incredibly fast. 

  • Mobility: You can access cloud computing applications on any internet-connected device. 

  • Security: Data is encrypted for transmission to the cloud and storage in cloud databases, so your information could be more secure in the cloud than it might be on-premises. 

Essential components of Cloud Computing

Cloud architecture requires several components to work. This section will explore the resources needed to create IT environments that virtualise, pool, and share scalable resources online.

Front end

The front-end infrastructure is what the user sees when working in the cloud. This includes: 

  • User interface: The things you use to make requests of cloud computing (e.g., Gmail or Outlook)

  • Software: Encompasses your applications and web browsers (e.g., Chrome, Firefox, Safari)

  • Client devices: Such as an on-premises PC or remote desktop, or your laptop, tablet, or mobile phone

Back end 

The back-end infrastructure is the behind-the-scenes technology running the cloud. This includes several components:

  • Hardware: Even though you are in the cloud, there are still actual servers, storage, routers, and switches that the cloud service provider manages in real life. This hardware is where the actual workloads run.

  • Virtualisation layer: Virtualisation creates many virtual machines that can run simultaneously. Abstracting the physical resources lets many users efficiently access networks, servers, or storage in the cloud. 

  • Middleware: This is the applications and software that enable the networked computers, applications, and software to communicate and allocate resources for tasks.

  • Security: Security mechanisms are built into the architecture to protect cloud resources, systems, files, and infrastructure. 

When you’re talking about front- and back-end together, you’ll talk about full stack. Someone who is a full-stack developer has the skills to work with the cloud computing components visible to the user (front end) and the underlying databases, infrastructure, and the code that connects these two (back end).

Delivery model

Four cloud architectures or deployment models—public, private, hybrid, and community—differ based on the hosting type and who has access. 

A public cloud is more open. A vendor owns and maintains all the computing resources are owned and maintained by a vendor, and others pay for access. This offers users low-cost scalability, with someone else supporting the infrastructure.

A private cloud is closed only to approved users (e.g., an enterprise might have its private cloud infrastructure). Typically more expensive, this is more customisable and affords the owner more compliance and security options.

Hybrid clouds combine private and cloud technology to enable workload portability. You can combine public clouds' efficiency with private clouds' security by going hybrid.

A community or multi-cloud architecture combines more than one environment to enjoy greater flexibility. Users can pick and choose services based on their objectives. 


You need to be connected to a network to enable the front and back end to communicate, regardless of your deployment model. 

Main types of cloud computing

Cloud computing architecture modernises IT infrastructure by offering on-demand services, access to a network, resource pooling, scalability, and the ability to pay as you go. Many different types of cloud computing give users these benefits. The three most common types of cloud computing service models are covered in more detail here. 

Software as a Service (SaaS)

SaaS eliminates the need to install software locally. Instead, you can access online applications via a web interface. The SaaS provider is responsible for delivering and maintaining the software, which can improve speed and efficiency and cut costs.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

In IaaS, you manage your software and applications, but the cloud vendor provides the servers, networks, and storage devices. This eliminates the need for an organisation to invest in infrastructure. 

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

In this model, your provider delivers the back-end networks, servers, and storage needed so that you can build a platform to create your applications or software. This allows end users to configure the software to suit their unique needs.

Get involved in cloud computing

Position yourself for success with one of the many course offerings on Coursera. Start with IBM’s Introduction to Cloud Computing or build on your cloud know-how by learning to be a Full Stack Software Development.

Article sources

  1. Gartner. “Gartner Forecasts End-User Spending on Public Cloud Services in India to Total $7.3 Billion in 2022,” Accessed May 16, 2024.

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