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A cloud services provider (CSP) offers different data center offerings and products to businesses and individuals as services they can use via the internet. Paying a CSP for the use of services as needed relieves businesses from having to build and maintain their own infrastructure and download, patch, upgrade and secure all of the software they want to use. The CSP hosts the software and services from its own data center and customers access the services through network connections.

Popular services available in this model include Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Customers can pay for these services on a subscription basis, and it is very easy to increase capacity as needed. The CSP ensures that the software is kept updated and patched, and will typically offer a choice of plans that specify different levels of service (such as 99.99% uptime) in the service level agreement.

There are many different CSPs to choose from, but the three dominant providers today are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and the Google Cloud Platform. Many other services besides IaaS, SaaS and PaaS are emerging from these and other CSPs. The term XaaS has been coined to mean Anything as a Service, and recognizes the large number of technologies and products that are now being offered by CSPs as services over the internet versus on-site within a business’s own data center. For example, Artificial Intelligence as a Service (AIaas), Disaster Recovery as a Service (DraaS), Malware as a Service (MaaS), Communications as Service (CaaS,) and Network as a Service (NaaS) offerings are readily available from a number of CSPs.