Cloud glossary

Cloud glossary


The “cloud” has morphed from a technology buzz phrase a few years ago into a full-blown trend. Companies big and small are increasingly realizing the cost and flexibility benefits of hosting their data and computing processes off-site, rather than maintaining expensive hardware themselves. But the field, like all aspects of information technology, is full of indecipherable jargon. Here, thanks to some help from Microsoft Canada and IBM Canada, is a glossary of terms that translates some of the cloud’s arcane concepts into plain English

Cloud computing

Cloud computing, or just “the cloud,” is an all-encompassing term that describes the delivery of resources over the Internet on a pay-per-use or subscription basis. It can cover everything from simple applications such as e-mail to more complex systems like financial analytics. Data centre usage, where computing power is essentially rented, is also considered a cloud service.

Private cloud

A private cloud is computing infrastructure such as a server that is specifically devoted to one company and blocked from others by a firewall. Some companies may own cloud infrastructure and house it on their own premises, but it can also be located off-site or at a third-party data centre.

Public cloud

With the public cloud, an organization’s software, hardware and devices are hosted and managed by a third-party provider and delivered over the Internet. Public cloud services usually involve standardized products and are cheaper and easier to implement. This can also be referred to as a multitenant cloud.

Hybrid cloud

A blend of private and public, a hybrid cloud takes advantage of both models by providing cheaper, standardized options wherever possible, but also customized aspects where needed. Companies often put more sensitive applications (such as financial software and client data) on a private cloud and other programs (like a company app or website) on a public cloud.

Hyperscale cloud

Some cloud service providers offer companies the option to hyperscale or to add computing, memory, storage and networking capabilities at a near-instant pace. It’s a good choice for rapidly growing companies.

Cloud migration

The process of moving onto the cloud, down from it or from one service provider to another is known as cloud migration.

Cloud backup

A cloud backup is the process of copying data to an off-site server over the Internet.

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)

Infrastructure as a Service is a form of cloud computing that relates to hardware. Many companies don’t want to develop their own cloud system, so they work with an outside company that has servers, storage and networking capabilities. IaaS is an on-demand service – you can scale storage space up or down depending on your needs – and it’s typically a pay-as-you-go model.

SaaS (Software as a Service)

Perhaps the most popular form of cloud computing, Software as a Service is usually an application or program that is accessed by a user, often through a Web browser or app, that is processed remotely by a third party. Everyday examples include the file storage site Dropbox and Netflix video streaming. SaaS makes the same cloud-based service available on a multitude of devices to thousands or even millions of users.

PaaS (Platform as a Service)

The third prong of basic cloud computing, Platform as a Service is aimed at software and application developers. PaaS gives these individuals and departments a common, standardized infrastructure on which they can design their wares. In other words, it’s a way for people to create programs in the cloud, rather than on their own computers and servers. Creating apps for Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS is a form of PaaS, with the respective companies providing the basic platform on which developers can play.

BPaaS (Business Process as a Service)

Any business process, such as payroll or e-commerce, delivered over the Internet and accessible by one or more devices, can be considered a Business Process as a Service. Companies can use BPaaS to find efficiencies, unify processes or improve customer experiences. Many big Internet companies, including eBay, PayPal and Skype, are based around automated BPaaS.

DraaS (Disaster Recovery as a Service)

As its name implies, Disaster Recovery as a Service is a specialized form of cloud computing that allows businesses to continue operating in the event of a catastrophe.

Virtual server

A virtual server, also known as a virtual private server, works in the same way as a dedicated physical server, but it’s a form of software. Several private virtual servers can therefore exist on a single physical server. Virtual servers can be cheaper to rent; although, their performance may not be as good as that of a fully dedicated server.


OpenStack is a free and opensource cloud management software suite that lets companies access and organize the use of infrastructure from service vendors. Large technology companies including, IBM, HP and Cisco, sell custom-made OpenStack implementations of their services for easier and simpler access.


Hadoop is an open-source software project being developed by the Apache Software Foundation. Its goal is to provide heavy processing power to organizations spread across a number of computer clusters that are each made up of readily available hardware. The software assumes, accounts for and works around expected hardware failures.


Provisioning is the process of deploying and managing IT resources in the cloud, according to a company’s particular needs.


A combination of development and operations, DevOps is a way of creating software that stresses co-operation between various stakeholders. Software developers and IT staff work together to create smooth, customized systems for the business.

Internet of things

A hot buzzword, the Internet of things is the catch-all phrase for connecting a variety of devices, from wearable gadgets to sensorladen appliances, to a network. The devices gather data by “talking” to each other.

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