What does "Cloud" mean?

The word “Cloud” is used a lot in today’s media and IT industry but what does it really mean? The word “Cloud” is basically a term used to describe a number of services, these services can be anything from storage, think Apples iCloud or Microsoft OneDrive through to big data systems that are handing terabytes of data for large corporations. Due to the word “Cloud” having so many variations it can be very difficult to understand what it does and how it works.

There are many cloud providers on the internet, some offering similar service and some offering very bespoke technologies. The one thing all the services have in common is they are providing a 24x7x365 service to their customers. This is where the cloud becomes of interest to the small business, imagine being able to get hold of your data when you needed it, no more journeys to the office to login to the company computer systems.

Where do you start? the first thing is to look at what your business is currently doing and where you expect to be in the next 5 years, it maybe the Cloud is not a solution for your company but before you rule it out check out what it can do.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is designed to allow you to extend your current data centre (or office servers) out to the internet. You have full control over the virtual servers within the Cloud, as you do on premise.

Software as a Service (SaaS) this solution provides a fully managed service to your users, Office365 is a excellent example of this. You don’t need to worry about maintenance, patching or back up as this is all managed by the vendor. You still have control of configuration, to a lesser degree compared to IaaS, of the services offered i.e. security, branding, device control etc.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) this is similar to SaaS in that all the back end systems are maintained by the vendor. The difference is the services offered are more specific to a task. Systems such as SQL Server or Web sites come under the PaaS service.

As you can see there are many variations on the word “Cloud” and we’ve only touched on them here.