Cloud Confusion: What is Cloud Computing, Anyway?

cloud confusionCloud computing, cloud services, cloud storage, cloud hosting, cloud gaming, cloud music,… the list of cloud-related terms will go on and on – all lead to one result: Consumers left with confusion; what is this cloud computing, anyway?

Cloud computing 101: Revisited

The concept of cloud computing is actually this simple: Your information is stored in a network of web servers and automatically managed in such a way that your information can resides in multiple web servers – all bundled in the form of cloud services. The complexity is “hidden” to the end user, and people label the complexity as “the cloud.”

As an end user, you only need to log into the cloud services via the company website and you can access your information from inside your account without knowing the actual location of your information.

Here’s a good explanation about cloud computing and the problem why cloud computing is so confusing:

Cloud computing refers to the logical computational resources (data, software) accessible via a computer network (through WAN or Internet etc), rather than from a local computer. The on-line service can be offered from a cloud provider or it could be private organization’s own. In this case these technologies are regarded by some analysts as a technological evolution, or are seen as a marketing trap by others…

Source: Wikipedia

The definition from Wikipedia is not that clear to non-techie, but it’s pretty decent. Now what’s interesting is the last sentence of the definition of cloud computing above: Cloud computing is either viewed as a technological breakthrough or a marketing gimmick.

Marketing gimmick? Yes, many tech people I know say that cloud computing is an old IT tech rebranded and commercialized using “cloud computing” or “the cloud” as the buzzwords.

One web hosting company techie explains to me that cloud computing – in this case, cloud hosting, is just the same as the conventional web hosting services. Web hosting goes cloud by offering a new service level using virtualization technology to the existing IT infrastructure of a web hosting provider, allowing customers to scale up and down as they wish; to access resources on demand.

Some die-hard fans of cloud computing, such as Rackspace develops cutting-edge cloud services, while some other just riding the wave and label existing services as cloud computing services. That’s why there are two views mentioned above.

Today’s cloud confusion: A survey results

An InformationWeek article explains that a survey conducted on 1,000 American adults by Ipsos OTX MediaCT reveals disconnection between consumer who use the cloud services and consumer who really understands the cloud concepts.

22 percent of respondents claim that they use cloud-based email services; 13 percent for photos, 9 percent for music and videos, 8 percent for storage and backup, and 9 percent for office software.

However, when asked about using branded cloud services without mentioning the term “cloud” or “cloud computing,” the survey yields different answers: 90% respondent indicate that they use cloud-based services when presented with brand names.

So, yes – a question “Do you use cloud storage for images” could give you the answer, “No, I prefer Flickr.”

“The cloud,” “cloud computing,” “cloud hosting” – all sounds cool, but cloud businesses need to explain better to consumers; instead of talking about the ambiguous “cloud” terms, they should think about explaining the benefits of their cloud-based applications for end users.

Here’s for a conclusion: Most people are now using some forms of cloud computing for their business and personal endeavors, but some of them just don’t realize it – “thanks” to the cloudy definitions of cloud-enabled services.

Once consumers are becoming well-informed about the cloud, cloud businesses should expect more business coming their way. So, it’s your job and mine to explain about the cloud better to the general public.

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  • Kirsty

    Nice article. You might like this infographic — “Cloud Computing – what is it and why should I care?” :

    • Ivan


      That’s a useful infographic – I am considering to feature your infographic in our next blog post. Stay tuned 🙂

  • Meh

    What is cloud? Your data on other peoples systems and all spread over a spectrum of world servers, welcome to the age of dumb terminals or thin clients as they call them now.

    • Ivan


      Well – if you put it that way, you are correct. Indeed, businesses adopting the cloud won’t need to invest on powerful clients to get things done as they are now “outsource” their IT needs to the cloud. But with the uncertain economy today, businesses need to pick their poison: Invest heavily on IT infrastructure but hurting their bottom line or bring (almost) everything to the cloud and survive yet another day.

      It’s all about choices really… and as cloud computing grows significantly, it seems that businesses only want to survive and do better with less (if you asked me, I’ve chosen to go all the way to the cloud!)

      Thanks for your opinion!