The six characteristics of cloud computing

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In celebration of the launch of our upcoming CCSP Masterclass on July 10, we’re going to dive into the six essential characteristics of cloud computing. These are basically the features that make the cloud work the way that it does. Cloud computing gives us an incredibly flexible and scalable way to develop and use software, and a substantial part of this is due to these characteristics.

The six essential characteristics are:

  • On-demand self-service
  • Broad network access
  • Resource pooling
  • Rapid elasticity
  • Measured service
  • Multi-tenancy

Let’s delve into what each of these characteristics mean in the world of cloud computing.

On-demand self-service

On demand self-service means that customers can access cloud services on-demand, whenever they need them, all via self-service. With on-demand self-service, you don’t have to buy a bunch of servers ahead of time if you think you’re going to need some compute. Similarly, if you want a development environment, you can access one with just a few clicks. If all you need is access to a simple software tool, you can have that on-demand as well. On-demand self-service plays a vital role in cloud being so ubiquitous and easy to use, whenever you need it.

Broad network access

With broad network access, cloud services can be accessed from basically any device or location where there is a network connection. As long as you have Wi-Fi, data or Ethernet, you can connect to a cloud service. You don’t have to go into some office to access their on-premises hardware.

Resource pooling

Resource pooling means that cloud service providers pool together their compute, storage and network resources, then allow their customers to draw their services from this pool. Cloud providers have huge data centers packed with compute, storage and networking hardware. They use virtualization to maximize the efficient use of this hardware and to grant their customers flexible use of resources. In many situations, resources pooling can make cloud computing cheaper than running your own hardware on premises.

Rapid elasticity

Rapid elasticity means that the virtual resources can rapidly scale up and scale down as needed. If your company only needs to run its payroll system once a month, then you can find a cloud service where you will only pay for this monthly usage. You don’t have to have a bunch of on-premises servers for payroll that sit around gathering dust most of the time, only to have brief bursts of activity once a month. This is another critical factor that explains why cloud can help us use hardware resources more efficiently—when your payroll system isn’t running, the cloud provider can let other customers use the servers.

Measured service

With measured service, cloud service usage is measured, and customers only pay for what they use. This means that payment is similar to your water or electricity bill—your provider measures what you use, and then charges you for that amount at the end of the billing period. 


Multi-tenancy is only an essential characteristic in public clouds, such as Amazon S3 or a software-as-a-service product like Dropbox. It means that separate cloud service customers use the same underlying hardware resources, but they are logically isolated from each other. There is no multi-tenancy under the private cloud deployment model, because private clouds are only used by a single customer.

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