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Cloud Computing Guide and Glossary

Cloud computing, like other types of technologies and business strategies, comes with a distinct set of terms. From cloudstorming to cloudsourcing, the language can get complicated, but don’t let that keep you from venturing into the cloud.

Here are some quick definitions to get you in the know, fast:

Cloud computing: First, there’s this umbrella term itself. It refers not to a product or technology (although it’s often called the cloud), but to how computing is delivered. That is, you share resources, infrastructure and applications with others. Think of it as a digital version of a rented storage facility — everyone shares the same building, land and utilities, but your stuff is separated and kept safe from intruders. (For more information about getting started with cloud computing, check out our primer on the cloud, “Cloud Services Crash Course.”)

Cloudsourcing: Refers to cloud services replacing traditional IT services. For example, in a traditional IT environment, a company would have a room with servers and other hardware, and use applications purchased just for the company. Cloud services replace that hardware and software with shared services. While cloud computing doesn’t eliminate the need for tech professionals within a company, it can reduce IT costs through cloudsourcing.

Cloudstorming: Sounds meteorological, but cloudstorming just means that multiple cloud-computing environments are connected. This creates an environment with increased storage capacity, faster processing speeds and better application availability.

Consumption-based: Cloud-computing services can differ in terms of pricing models. A firm that charges based on time usage will offer a subscription-based price. However, most cloud providers rely on consumption-based pricing. This means you pay according to how much of the service you use. For example, you might pay based on how many applications you access or how much data is stored. The general term for both types of pricing models is “pay as you go.”

On-demand service: Particularly if you have a smaller business, you can make cloud computing more affordable by purchasing it only when needed. For instance, an online retailer of holiday goods might benefit from buying cloud services in November and December to accommodate increased site traffic. The expanded server capacity ensures that the site won’t go down during heavier traffic periods.

Private cloud: Many smaller businesses rely on a public cloud, which brings together multiple companies who pay based on usage. Other companies prefer a private cloud, which has the benefits of the cloud model, but is managed internally by the company’s IT staff.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): When applied to the cloud, this term means applications are delivered via the cloud rather than running on a company’s internal servers. For example, an expensive customer relationship management (CRM) application might be out of reach for a smaller company that wanted to implement it in-house. But using the cloud gives the business access to the app without the usual per-desk licensing fees. SaaS enterprise software encompasses a wide range of applications, including accounting, HR, content management and help-desk management.

Service-level agreement (SLA): This agreement is crucial for creating an understanding between you and your cloud provider about what will be included in your cloud-computing arrangement. Every SLA should define the level of service provided, responsibility for technical fixes and support availability. In the SLA, cloud firms should give guarantees about performance, security and access.

Knowing these basic terms will help you figure out what type of cloud service is right for your company, and what agreements should be in place before you get started. Now you can sound like a pro as you go cloud jumping.

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