What Does Cloud Mean

In the past few years there's been a great deal of buzz around cloud computing services—and more broadly, "the cloud". There's been so much loose talk around the subject that if you're considering using cloud services, it's sensible to start by asking, "what does cloud mean?"

What Does Cloud Mean? How Cloud Services Work for You as a Customer

What does cloud mean for you as a potential consumer of cloud services? A nutshell cloud computing definition is that a cloud service makes computer hardware and software functionality available to you through the Internet. More specifically, a cloud service has these core attributes:

  • The cloud hosting provider purchases, operates, and maintains the hardware and software in a data center that they own or lease. There is no need for you to purchase, install, or maintain hardware or software yourself.
  • You interact with the cloud service through an Internet connection, on a self-service basis. You can start the service, consume it from day to day, and increase or decrease your service usage level, all with little or no interaction with the service provider. Behind the scenes, the provider's cloud management software automates things like service provisioning and resource scaling.
  • You pay only for what you use. Typically billing is done on a subscription basis. Charges are based on how much of the service you use, and you can terminate the subscription when you no longer need the service.

What Does Cloud Mean? The Cloud is Not Synonymous with the Web

One reason you might wonder, "what does cloud mean?" is that the term "cloud" is sometimes used so loosely that it seems to be one and the same as "the web". In fact, while cloud services make use of the web, cloud is not synonymous with the web. Not everything on the web is a cloud service.

Here's how to think about the distinction between "cloud" and the web:

  • If you're an individual consumer, a cloud service replaces software that you would otherwise install and run on your desktop or mobile device. When you use Google Search, you're not using the cloud; but if you use Gmail (rather than an installed email client like Microsoft Outlook) or Google Docs (rather than an installed office suite like Microsoft Office)—you're in the cloud.
  • If you're an employee of a business or other organization, a cloud service replaces software that you would otherwise install on your workstation or that would run in the corporate data center. If you use Amazon to buy office supplies, you're using the web but not the cloud. If you use Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) to store data (rather than storing it on a local hard drive or on an office file server) or Salesforce as your CRM system (rather than a locally installed application)—that's the cloud.

Akamai Can Help the Cloud Mean More to Your Business

If your business is considering using a cloud service—or developing your own in-house enterprise cloud services—contact Akamai today. Whatever type of cloud service you adopt—from basic cloud storage services to enterprise SaaS applications to mobile cloud computing solutions—Akamai can help you drive more value from the service by improving the reliability and performance of service delivery to your workforce over the internet. Leveraging our global application acceleration network that spans over 160,000 servers in more than 95 counties, Akamai can ensure that your end users have a positive, productive experience with cloud services no mater where they connect from or what type of device they use.

Learn more about how Akamai's internet optimization and WAN optimization solutions make the cloud mean more to business users.