Cloud computing’s role continues to expand in today’s business and consumer worlds. The benefits it offers far outweigh the drawbacks, and Forbes predicts that 83% of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud by 2020.

With such encouraging signs of the cloud’s continued popularity, it’s imperative for cloud users and IT professionals alike to have a solid grasp on the definitions of the most often used terms. With that in mind, we now present 30 of the top cloud computing terms and what they mean.

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Here Are the Important Cloud Computing Terms

      1. Application Programming Interface

        Often shortened to API, the application programming interface is a tool that lets users gain access to information or functionality from a given service and incorporate it into the user’s app. For instance, an article on CNET has a button that lets you share it on Twitter. That button is an API.
      2. AWS

        Short for Amazon Web Services, AWS is Amazon.com’s cloud computing platform, offering over three dozen cloud services to consumers. AWS is the Internet’s most-used cloud service provider.
      3. Azure

        This is Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, a competitor of AWS. It provides IaaS and PaaS services.
      4. BaaS

        This acronym stands for Backend-as-a-Service, and it provides tools and services to the developers of mobile and web apps to create their cloud backend for said apps. The mobile variety is usually designated as mBaaS.
      5. Big Data

        A catch-all term for massive amounts of structured and unstructured data that come from a wide variety of sources. The sheer volume of data makes it virtually impossible to process using conventional techniques.
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      7. Cloud Backup

        Backing up data to a remote, cloud-based server. The data is stored in and accessed from a network of interconnected resources, forming the aforementioned cloud.  
      8. Cloud Computing

        The delivery of IT services on-demand over shared networked computing resources. The top three cloud offerings are IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.
      9. Cloud Provider

        An organization or business that offers access to cloud computing services, generally for a fee. Examples of cloud providers include AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud.
      10. Consumption-based

        The cloud computing pricing model where customers are charged for how much of the service they use, rather than a block of time.
      11. Data Migration

        Moving data between multiple formats, servers, storage systems, or warehouses. The terms are used most often in terms of sending data off to the cloud.
      12. Elasticity

        A cloud storage system’s capability for adapting to clients’ fluctuating workload demands.
      13. External Cloud

        This is a cloud service where fees are most likely charged, and offers customization to suit clients’ needs.
      14. Google Cloud Platform

        Also known as GCP, this is Google’s entry into the cloud computing race. It offers IaaS and PaaS.
      15. IaaS

        An acronym standing for Infrastructure as a Service, it consists of a virtual environment delivered to customers by a cloud provider. This particular infrastructure features network equipment, servers, storage, and software, the latter including a complete desktop environment.
      16. Infrastructure

        The catchall term describing all IT resources, both virtual and hardware that support a given IT environment.

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      17. Internal Cloud

        A private cloud service created or offered by an internal IT department, strictly for in-house use.
      18. Load Balancing

        The distribution of workloads over a series of resources, for instance, servers, to assure that no single server suffers a point of failure.
      19. Middleware

        Software that serves as a bridge between applications and components.
      20. On-Premise

        Refers to either infrastructure or software technology that runs on the premises belonging to the user of that technology. 
      21. PaaS

        An acronym standing for Platform as a Service, this is a product where the cloud services provider offers users the necessary software and hardware for the creation, deployment, and management of applications, all via the Internet.
      22. Pay-As-You-Go

        A means of purchasing cloud services (hardware and software) from a provider that requires no money down; instead, it’s a based on consumption, or via subscription.
      23. Personal Cloud

        This is a classic case of rebranding. In terms of the cloud, “personal cloud” is another way to describe network-attached storage (NAS) devices. A NAS is a computer connected to a network for the purposes of dedicated data storage. “Personal cloud” is a prime example of “cloud washing,” which in turn is defined as the act of rebranding old tech into something related to the cloud.
      24. Private Cloud

        This is a cloud infrastructure system that is used by multiple users within one single entity (business, organization, etc.) It can be operated by the home organization, a third party, or some combination of the two, and be located either on-premises or off-site.
      25. Public Cloud

        This is a cloud infrastructure system that is hosted by a cloud services provider and can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection.  Amazon’s EC2 or IBM’s Blue Cloud are good examples, as is Google Drive.
      26. Service Level Agreement (SLA)

        This is the agreement between a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) and a customer, outlining contractual terms such as availability, level of service, and performance.
      27. SaaS

        An acronym standing for Software as a Service, this represented software applications hosted by a vendor and sold as subscription licenses to users. Salesforce, Adobe’s Creative Cloud, and Microsoft’s Office 365 are some of the most well-known examples of a SaaS.
      28. Software Stack

        This is a group of applications that work together, in tandem, so to achieve a typical result. The components work in a specific order within this framework.
      29. User Interface

        This is how a user and computer system interact.
      30. Virtual Machine

        A VM is a software that emulates a computer, used for running an operating system or applications.
      31. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure 

        This is virtualization technology that hosts a desktop operating system on a virtual machine. It’s also called server-based computing.

While this list isn’t exhaustive, it covers a good range of cloud computer-related terms. The two best ways to be comfortable working with the cloud is to learn the language and get some related training. 

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About the Author

John TerraJohn Terra

John Terra lives in Nashua, New Hampshire and has been writing freelance since 1986. Besides his volume of work in the gaming industry, he has written articles for Inc.Magazine and Computer Shopper, as well as software reviews for ZDNet. More recently, he has done extensive work as a professional blogger. His hobbies include running, gaming, and consuming craft beers. His refrigerator is Wi-Fi compliant.

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