MTE Explains: What Is Cloud Computing?

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard the term “cloud” time and again. And who doesn’t? Lately, it’s been slapped on everything! When looking for a definition, you get a million answers that beat around the subject, but don’t really give you a direct answer that’s easy to comprehend. A lot of cloud providers have been focusing chiefly on providing enterprises with services, but there are a large number of providers who want to cater to you, the consumer. The problem is that they probably aren’t aware of the fact that you have virtually no idea what the cloud really is. Some people even try to take advantage of that as a selling point. Today, we’re discussing what the cloud really is!

The standard definition of cloud computing usually goes like this: Cloud computing is the use of another computer’s resources which are shared as a service across a network. At first, this sounds very confusing, because no one bothers to explain the “as a service” part. That’s the part of cloud computing that sets it apart from accessing an ordinary website. I mean, when you browse to a site, you use another computer’s resources. That other computer dedicates a bit of its memory and processing power to send you the data that makes up the website. But it doesn’t do this “as a service.” Let’s explain that a bit, shall we?

As a service” refers to the ability to store and manipulate or otherwise configure data in a completely dedicated environment. You’d feel like you’re using a piece of software on your own computer, but you’re using it on your browser. In most cases, this is all you have to worry about. It gets much more complicated than that, but the complicated stuff is usually for enterprises. You just have to worry about this definition: A cloud service offers a piece of software that runs on a remote computer and that you can use through your browser. That’s as simple as it gets.

If you use DropBox, Gmail, Google Drive, or Google Docs, you’re using the cloud. Pretty neat, huh? They’re pieces of software that are run as a service on your browser. DropBox is a backup software, Gmail is an email management software that can replace MS Outlook completely, Google Drive is a library, and Google Docs is an office suite like Microsoft Office. Sites like DropBox are known as “Storage as a Service,” or STaaS. Google Docs provides “Software as a Service,” or SaaS.

cloudcomputing-saas

There are tons of other types of cloud applications, but these two are the ones you’ll see predominantly as a consumer. Now, compare one of these services to, say, this blog. It’s providing you with content, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting a service. This is a static document you read. Do you get the difference between a cloud service and a regular website now?

So, remember: DropBox is cloud, MTE (this blog) is a regular Internet site. This is the simplest clarification.

If you still feel confused, ask a question in the comments section below and I’ll help you understand the difference.