What is cloud?

27 Oct

So about four months ago I started a new job as a staff writer at Cloud Pro and have since been inundated with LITERALLY 10 requests to explain what on earth it is I do each day. Or more specifically, what I write about.

Cloud computing. You’ve possibly heard of it, you almost certainly use it, either at work or, more likely, in your personal life. But what is it?

That, dear reader is harder to pin down than you might think. But we can start somewhere easy – What does The Cloud look like?

Well it’s not quite as fluffy, light or moist as the name may have led you to believe.

A cloud, but not THE cloud


In fact, it looks a lot more like this:

this is more like it


That is a picture of a data centre, and it is data centres that power the cloud. Big ones. In fact their size and energy consumption is a big bone of contention.


So that’s grand but what do they do? And why should you care?

Well I’m glad you asked. Generally, NIST’s definition is accepted as the industry standard, and you can read that here. But I’m more interested, and I’m sure you’re more interested, in what it means for you in your day-to-day life.

I said at the beginning of this post that you almost certainly use cloud and it’s true – you just might not have heard it called that before. But I’m sure you recognise these guys:





And maybe also these:






And probably some of these guys too:









That’s right friend, you’re already one of us.


A nebulous banquet

As a consumer, you only consume part of the cloud buffet. The tasty little morsels that make your online and computer facing life better, easier and more fun – not the hulking great slabs that are used in business. You’re sampling the cloud vol au vents, they’ve gone straight for the beef wellington.

In technical terms, your little canapés form part of the SaaS and light IaaS parts of what the cloud has to offer.

SaaS, or ‘software-as-a-service’, are effectively online applications like Gmail, Steam or Facebook. They provide some kind of service for a thing you want to do (email, gaming, sharing pictures of cats with lolspeak captions) and they store all the data for you.

Think about it. You’ve uploaded your pictures, thoughts, lols and lunch to Facebook and you can now access all those things from any computer/phone/tablet with an internet connection. They’re not stored on your computer, so where are they?

That’s right, baby


IaaS, or ‘infrastructure-as-a-service’, is more towards the beef wellington end of the spectrum and is a big thing for companies looking to reduce overheads and streamline efficiencies and shift paradigms etc. What does it have to do with you then? Well, you see, if you have an account with Dropbox or iCloud or Skydrive, to name but three examples, where you store your data and use an application downloaded onto your ‘device’ to access it, you are using IaaS cloud storage.

Mad, yeah? But it doesn’t stop there. If you have a website, you could well be using IaaS cloud hosting to, well, host it. Collaborating on documents online, with something like Google Docs? Also cloud.

The key thing about cloud is that all that data you generate is held remotely, to be accessed by a (normally) secure internet connection. It isn’t stored on your computer – or in the case of things like Dropbox it isn’t *just* stored on your computer, it’s stored in somebody else’s data centre – probably in America.

So, what is it that I do then? Well I guess it could be summed up like this: I write about the different ways in which people and businesses interact with their data when it’s not physically in their possession. The challenges they face, the new products they are being offered and the way this technology, or group of technologies, is influencing the how we interact with our documents and each other, without most of us even realising what is going on.

(copyright XKCD)

One Response to “What is cloud?”

  1. Dolores 29 October, 2012 at 18:08 #

    Well I thought that was very clearly written and now I know what cloud is, thank you xx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: