A Quick Guide to Cloud Terminology
August 11th, 2011 By: Tavis J. Hampton

You have undoubtedly heard about cloud hosting or cloud computing, but you may not quite understand some of the terminology people involved with it use.  Some of the terms are not very well defined, but this quick guide should give you some basic understanding.

  1. Software as a Service (SaaS) – This term primarily refers to the purchasing method for cloud services.  Rather than paying traditional vendor license fees, the customer pays a subscription fee or a consumption fee for as long as the service is used. Ownership of the software remains in the hands of the provider.
  2. Cloud Platform – With a cloud platform, the service provider only lays the foundation: an operating system, server applications, and a development environment.  The customer then installs or develops the necessary applications.
  3. Private Cloud – This is where the lines between the cloud and regular web hosting start to blur.  A private cloud is a dedicated server that the customer uses exclusively.  The platform and applications, however, are still maintained by the cloud provider.  Some even extend this term to dedicated servers owned and operated by the customer, which seems to defeat the purpose of using the term “cloud”.
  4. Hybrid Cloud – In some situations, the customer may need both a local server running specific applications and a cloud service that hosts additional applications, files, or databases.  In such a situation, the two are often configured for interoperability.
  5. Internal Cloud - When an organization hosts its own cloud server for the internal use of its departments, it is called an internal cloud.
  6. Consumption-based model – Users pay only for the amount of services they consume.  For example, for cloud storage, they may pay for bandwidth on a per-gigabyte basis.
  7. Subscription-based model – Users pay a monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, or annual subscription fee for services.  Like traditional licenses, the fees may vary according to the number of users.

As you can tell from the above terminology, there is really no reason to be mystified by the cloud.  Although the name sounds like something otherworldly, it is actually quite simple.  As a wise man once said, “There is no cloud.  It’s just a bunch of servers.”

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