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NIST Special Publication Helps to Demystify Cloud Computing

For a clear view of cloud computing, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued a new publication that explains cloud systems in plain language.

The final version of Cloud Computing Synopsis and Recommendations (Special Publication 800-146) is NIST's general guide to cloud computing. It explains cloud systems in plain language and provides recommendations for information technology decision makers, including chief information officers, information systems developers, system and network administrators, information system security officers and systems owners.

NIST defines cloud computing as a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources—for example, networks, servers, storage, applications and services—that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

Cloud computing is a rapidly developing area with many strengths and some weaknesses. Each organization has to determine which set of cloud technologies and configurations will meet its requirements. Cloud Computing Synopsis and Recommendations explains how clouds are deployed, what kind of services are available, the economic considerations, the technical characteristics such as performance and reliability, typical terms of service, and security issues. It also offers recommendations on how and when cloud computing is an appropriate tool, and indicates the limits of current knowledge and areas for future research and analysis.

"NIST has provided valuable leadership in defining cloud computing and in characterizing its various opportunities and challenges," said Jim Reavis, executive director, Cloud Security Alliance. "Our organization and indeed the global consumers of cloud computing eagerly anticipate this and future publications from NIST on cloud computing."

Cloud Computing Synopsis and Recommendations (SP 800-146) is available at A pdf may be downloaded from

Released May 29, 2012, Updated February 6, 2023