Cloud For Beginners: Our Essential Glossary of Cloud Terms

A Simple Explanation Of Key Cloud Terms

One of the frustrating things about technology is the number of acronyms and jargon that accompany it!  We’ve done our best to note down the key terms you need to know in alphabetical order in this post.  If other aspects of cloud computing are bothering you – why not consider our free cloud assessment for businesses?


Cloud Computing Glossary of Terms

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a cloud platform accessible under Amazon Web Services (AWS), which offers raw computing resources on demand.

Amazon EC2 provides computing instances that can be scalable, in terms of computing power and memory made more flexible, by providing the option to host applications on multiple platforms, while remaining secure, thanks to a tightly coupled multi-tenant architecture. Amazon EC2 enables the provision of a virtual server, which can incorporate computing power. This is available on a subscription-based utility computing model and the user is billed only for resources used.


AWS – Amazon Web Services

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a bundled remote computing facility that provides cloud computing organization over the Internet. With storage, bandwidth and customized support for application programming interfaces, (API).

Amazon offers AWS, with scalable and virtually unlimited computing, storage and bandwidth resources. AWS uses a subscription pricing model of — pay-as-you-go or pay-for-what-you-use.



Windows Azure is a cloud computing standard developed by Microsoft that can be used to build and then host online Web applications through Microsoft data-centres. Management of scalable Web applications is also performed at Microsoft data-centres.



A content delivery network (CDN) is a structure (of multiple computers) that contains copies of data stored at various network nodes. A well designed and appropriately implemented CDN, improves data access by enhancing bandwidth, minimizing access latency, while providing users with access to large amounts of media or data. Generally, CDN content can include Web objects, applications, database queries, downloadable data objects and media streams.



A client is the receiving end of a service or the requestor of a service in a client/server model type of system. The client is most often located on another system or computer, which can be accessed via a specific network.  A client can be a simple application or a whole system that accesses services being provided by a server. A client can connect to a server through different means, like domain sockets or named, shared memory, but mainly through Internet protocols, which is the most common method used, since the global adoption of the Internet.


Cloud Migration

Cloud migration is typically the process of partially or completely grouping an organization’s digital assets, services, IT resources or applications to the cloud. The migrated assets are accessible behind the cloud’s infrastructure.


Cloud sourcing

This is a procedure, by which specialized cloud products and services and their deployment and maintenance, is outsourced to and delivered by one or more cloud service providers.



A computer cluster is a unit consisting of multiple computers that are linked through a local area network or LAN. The networked computers act as a single, much more powerful device. A computer cluster provides much faster processing speed and larger storage capacity, better data integrity, superior reliability and wider availability of resources. Computer clusters are, nevertheless, far more expensive to implement and maintain.


Data sovereignty

Data sovereignty is the idea that data, which has been converted and stored in binary digital form, is subject to the laws of the country in which it is physically located.

The widespread acceptance of cloud computing services, as well as new approaches to data storage, has broken down old-style geopolitical barriers, more than ever before. In response, many countries have standardized new compliance requirements, by amending their current laws or ratifying new legislation that requires customer data to be kept within the country the customer resides.


Elastic computing

This is the ability of a cloud service provider, to offer flexible computing power, whenever and wherever required. The elasticity of these resources can be in terms of processing power, storage and bandwidth, etc.



Encryption is the process of encoding information in such a way that only authorized parties can read it. Encryption doesn’t avoid hacking, but reduces the probability of a hacker managing to read the data that is encrypted. In an encryption system, the message or information, referred to as plaintext, is encrypted using an encryption algorithm, turning it into an unreadable cipher text. This is usually done with the use of an encryption key, which specifies how the message is to be encoded.


Google Apps

Google apps is a web-based collaborative Software as a Service (SaaS) solution that modifies the proprietary Google platform and brand for businesses of all sizes, including large enterprises. Google Apps eases the maintenance of user/enterprise management tools, including Google Apps, Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Google Hangouts, Google Docs, Google Videos and Google Cloud Connect.


Google App Engine

Google App Engine is a software as a service (SaaS) cloud computing platform, for developing and hosting Web applications in Google-managed data-centres. Applications are sandboxed and run across multiple servers. It offers automatic scaling for Web applications, so as the number of requests for an application increases, Google App Engine automatically allocates more resources to the Web application, so it can handle the additional demand.

Google App Engine is free, up to a certain level of consumed resources. Fees are charged for additional storage, bandwidth or instance hours required by the application.


Hardware as a Service (HaaS)

This refers to managed services or grid computing. In grid computing, the computers on the network can work on a task together, thus functioning as a super-computer. In each case, the HaaS model is similar to other service-based models, where users rent, rather than purchase a provider’s tech assets.

Some of the most general types of HaaS models are classified as cloud computing services, in which data storage media and even active computing hardware are components of a remotely provisioned service for users.


Hosted Services

These are, in the most generic sense, services provided over the Internet. In the hosted service environment, one computer is configured to provide some or all of its resources for customer usage, in exchange for a specified fee. The Internet is used to connect the server to a client machine(s), which access server data, content and services.

The most popular hosted services are as follows:

  • Web hosting: Provides continuous internet access; a collection of software programs or services, (like FTP and email); and an environment for working with various programming languages, (PHP, Java and .NET).
  • File hosting: Hosts file storage facilities, rather than Web applications or sites, such as Google Drive or Evernote.
  • Image hosting: The host server stores image files or other flat files, which allows for easy and scalable sharing, like Picasa, Flickr, Instagram
  • Email hosting: Either via an outsourced server, such as Microsoft Exchange or via a natively Web-based email service, like Gmail.


Hybrid Cloud

A hybrid cloud is a cloud computing service model that delivers cloud computing solutions, by combining different cloud service models. A hybrid cloud is a mixture of a private cloud combined with the use of public cloud facilities, where one or several touch points exist between the different environments. The goal is to combine services and data from a variety of cloud models, in order to create a unified, automated and well-managed computing environment.



Is a free cloud storage service from Apple, which you can use to safely store different types of media (and non-media) files online. For digital music, iCloud is especially useful if you have an iTunes music library and want the option to access your collection from several locations — this includes other computers and portable Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, etc.

Storing your important files in a remote location using iCloud also gives you a disaster recovery solution, just in case other, more conventional backup methods fail — like an external hard drive, for example.


Microsoft Office 365

This is Microsoft’s own Software as a Service (SaaS) solution that contains Microsoft Office and other services, such as email and collaboration tools from the Microsoft cloud server. Microsoft Office 365 provides desktop features and is also available by subscription.



Is a personal cloud storage service from Microsoft that enables customers to store, synchronize and access their files across Windows PC and Mac OS X computers and laptops, as well as mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets and including windows phone devices and Apple IOS-powered iPhones and iPads.


Private Cloud

A private cloud refers to a model of cloud computing, where IT services are provisioned over a Private IT infrastructure and for the dedicated use of a single organization. A private cloud is usually managed via internal resources.


Public Cloud

Generally speaking, a public cloud consists of a service or set of services that are purchased by a business or organization and then delivered, via the Internet, by a third-party provider. Therefore, these services use storage capacity and processor power that is not owned by the business itself. Instead, this capacity, (in the form of servers and data-centres), can be owned by either the primary vendor, (e.g. an online storage/backup company) or a cloud infrastructure vendor.



A Sandbox, in the context of big data, is a scalable and developmental platform used to explore an organization’s rich information sets through interaction and collaboration. In other words, it allows a company to realize its actual investment value in big data.


Software as a Service (SaaS)

This is a standard for the distribution of software, in cases where clients access software over the Internet. In SaaS, a service provider hosts the application at its data-centre and a customer accesses it, via a standard Web browser


Thin Client

A thin client is a computer with network access using few locally stored programs and a substantial dependence on network resources. It may have very narrow resources of its own, maybe operating without auxiliary drives or even software applications.

Typically, a thin client is one of many network computers that share computation needs by using the resources of a single server. A thin client often has low cost hardware, with few hardware parts and can usually function better in a hostile environment.



Virtualisation involves the construction of a virtual resource, such as a server, desktop or operating system, file data, storage or network.

The objective of virtualization is to accomplish workloads, by radically altering traditional computing to make it more scalable. Today, virtualization can be applied to a wide range of system layers, including operating system-level virtualization, hardware-level virtualization and server virtualization.


Virtual Machine

A virtual machine (VM) is a piece of software or operating system that not only exhibits the performance of a separate computer, but is also capable of executing tasks, such as running applications and programs, as if it were a separate machine. A virtual engine, usually known as a ‘guest’, is created within another computing environment, referred to as a ‘host’. Multiple virtual machines can exist, within a single host, at one time.


Virtual Private Network

A virtual private network (VPN) is a private network constructed over a public infrastructure. Security mechanisms, such as encryption, allow VPN users to securely access a network from different locations, via a public network. Most frequently, this is the Internet.


Web host

This is an organization that sells or leases memory space on its servers. Web hosting is typically done in a data-centre that delivers services to clients, which enables them to publish websites on the Internet. A Web host can also offer data-centre space and an Internet connection for servers owned by others. The service provided by a Web host is called, ‘Web hosting’.


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