If you have used any internet service over the past few years, you may have heard the terms “cloud computing” or, more simply, “the cloud”. But do you actually know what these terms mean?
Let’s take a step back for a moment.
You are probably familiar with how software works on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Each of these devices runs an operating system and uses programs or applications (apps) for different functions. Plus, your device is also used to store files such as text or images or videos.
But the Internet can also be used to deliver programs and other services to you remotely, including storing files, just like the programs and apps stored on your devices. This what is referred to as “cloud computing” or “the cloud” for short.
Why is it called “the cloud”?
Well, that’s almost a “chicken and the egg” kind of question. The idea of a “cloud network” dates back to the 1960s when it was often used to describe the shared nature of telecommunications.
This same metaphor was then used to describe the World Wide Web and the Internet in general. It’s basically a nice visual representation of how data, files, resources, and services can be shared over the Internet. It’s not literally a cloud of things.
More specifically, the cloud is used to describe any service provided to users over the Internet, such as file storage services like Dropbox, or document creation services like Google Docs, or media services such as Netflix.
Behind these user-facing services are other services that provide the storage and infrastructure used to deliver cloud services, such as Amazon’s AWS.
Cloud services come in different flavors and can have some fancy names. You might have heard about these or use them already; Software as a Service (SaaS) such as Microsoft 365. Or Platform as a Service (PaaS) such as salesforce.com. Or even infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) such as Rackspace.
But no matter the type of services being provided over the Internet, pretty much anything can be classified as being “on the cloud.”