What is the Cloud? Share “Cloud”, “The Cloud” and “Cloud Computing” seem to be popular buzzwords around today’s technology, but what does the term “Cloud” really mean? The simplest way to explain “The Cloud” is by comparing it to web-based email providers such as Google’s gmail, or MSN’s Hotmail. These companies have been using cloud technology for years to make their accounts accessible from any place that has Internet service. Today’s “Cloud Computing” takes this one step further and includes daily computing activities. Cloud related technologies use the Internet to store data and programs, rather than using your computer’s hard drive or a server in your office. Cloud computing allows you to access files, programs and other information you need, at any time, as long as you have an Internet connection. Cloud computing is often divided into three separate categories. Software-as-a-Service, Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service. The Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) platform allows users to access an application on demand via a web browser. SAAS programs are usually offered through a paid subscription format and eliminate the need for organizations to handle the installation, set-up and upkeep of programs like CRM or accounting software. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IAAS) is a cloud based model where an organization outsources the equipment used to support its operations including storage, hardware, servers and networking components. Like SAAS programs, IAAS is often offered through a paid subscription format and eliminates the need for organizations to house their own IT equipment. With that said, an IAAS vendor usually only provides the underlying platform which means you will still need to have someone manually configure, manage and update numerous components. Platform-as-a-Service (PAAS) is a cloud based model similar to IAAS, but also provides the automation to deploy and test applications. With PAAS most everything is set up and maintained on your behalf. While there are many great ways the cloud can save you time and money, there are also risks involved. Be sure to fully weigh the pros and cons of each cloud solution you or your company are looking into. If you have questions regarding which cloud solution is right for you, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 260.423.2414.