What is “The Cloud” in Computing?

If you attend any tech event, promotional webex, college curriculum or product offering, you may hear the following : “Our product is Cloud based” | “Your Data is backed up to the Cloud” | “Learning Development in the Cloud

But what does it all mean? What is “The Cloud” in Computing? Who owns it? Is it better or worse?

Lets try to understand it in simple terms, while deciphering all of the acronyms.

What is “The Cloud”?

Simply speaking. The Cloud is really just a computer, or group of computers, or computing equipment located around the world in which you pay to use, or pay for the use their services. Most of the time, these live in Data Centers which are industrial scale facilities which house, power, cool, and connect these to the outside world. Most of these computers take the form of Servers which are large 4 ft by 2ft flat computers which are very powerful and efficient.

A Typical Server (These things are loud and heavy!)
Typical Data Center, which has many Servers in Racks you can slide them into and easily connect distributed power and networking cables.

How do you use it?

When you use the Cloud, typically your paying for usage of those computers/servers via a Service that you interact with via a Mobile App, Website, or Data feed.

For example. If you have many local photos on your phone, you can use Google Photos service (which is free) to send those to their servers (“cloud”) and they keep it there. Because they have a presence all over the world and a public website, you can login to see or download them anywhere, anytime. This could be called a Storage Cloud.

Major Providers of cloud systems include Amazon AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and more.

Pros and Cons

Cloud systems have many advantages and disadvantages. Lets list some out.


  • Cheaper Upfront Costs
    Clouds are Pay as you go billing
    -No Operational and Capital Expense related to hardware management
  • Globally Accessible
    -Can be reached via Internet
    -Provisioning and Deployments are dynamic
  • Agile and Scale-able
    -Resources scale dynamically


  • Lack of Visibility/Control
    -You cannot troubleshoot lower levels of systems or underlying services
    -You are dependent on connectivity and stability of the provider
  • Security Issues
    -Speed of resource deployments can outpace Security Controls
    -Some resources can have overly permissive defaults or public exposure
    -Larger exposure in the event of an account or system hijack

That’s a high level overview on the basics of The Cloud. We will dive deeper into some of the questions raised here on later posts!

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