What is the Cloud? Surprisingly a question still asked today

What is the Cloud? Surprisingly a question still asked today

IABM Journal

What is the Cloud? Surprisingly a question still asked today

Mon 22, 04 2024

What is the Cloud? Surprisingly a question still asked today

Damon Neale

It’s 2024 and I (wrongly) assumed that the ‘cloud’ was a well understood concept. That said, one of the top Google trends on the cloud is still surprisingly questions like “what is cloud computing?” and “the cloud”, and it shows that what I thought has long been common knowledge might still need some ‘clarification’.

In addition, I have had some ‘interesting’ conversations with some production companies and studios that also suggest that the cloud still is not well understood. Without mentioning any names, one of the funniest conversations I had recently was with a producer who informed me it was company “policy” not to use the internet or cloud, and yet the entire business was entirely dependent on cloud hosted SaaS services like Google Drive!? When I (politely) challenged this, they went on to explain how their files were on their computer, not in the ‘cloud’ (despite having shared links to these files with me via Google Drive and other cloud services). It was conversations like these that inspired me to write a course on the cloud for the IABM. Given that this is still happening, I thought it worth a super-simple summary of what the cloud is in this article.

Now I could do an entire course on each of these points (and I have), but the goal of this article is to simplify and summarize. I will super-briefly cover the cloud in general, public and private cloud, as well as IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.

For those of us that already know what the cloud is this article may not be for you.


The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines ‘Cloud Computing’ as:

“ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g. networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

The Oxford English Dictionary describes it as:

“A network of remote servers hosted on the Internet and used to store, manage, and process data in place of local servers or personal computers”

 These definitions are somewhat biased to a specific type of cloud computing – the ‘public’ cloud (which I’ll explain shortly). For a further generalization that encompasses private clouds and perhaps an (over)simplification to make that easier to understand might be “IT hardware centralized offsite for rent” or “remotely hosted technology for rent”. In the private cloud this might just be rack space (racks are large shelving units that hold servers), internet, power and air-conditioning (servers produce a lot of heat!), while in the public cloud it can be that but also servers, storage and networking too.

Public and Private Cloud

When most people speak of the cloud, they are referring to the ‘public’ cloud. Technically, the cloud can consist of multiple types such as the public and private cloud. There are also less known forms of the cloud, such as community clouds or local clouds and even the concept of a ‘hybrid’ or ‘multi’ cloud that are beyond the scope of this article.

Private Cloud

The ‘Private Cloud’ essentially refers to a remote data center including the fundamental underlying infrastructure required to centrally host your own IT hardware. More specifically, it is used to refer to a ‘managed’ private cloud, provided by a 3rd Party. You can rent the space, including the power, air-conditioning, internet etc. and buy your own servers, storage, etc. and host them (store and run) in this space for a monthly fee. Fees are typically based on the amount of space and power (electricity) needed to run your hardware. This can be great if you have limited (or expensive) office space in the middle of a city, or to centralize shared IT services across multiple offices. You also benefit from the physical security vs your office as they are very secure sites. People have requirements as does IT hardware; an office is designed for people to work together while a datacenter is designed to host IT hardware, so it is best to have dedicated spaces to best meet their needs.

Public Cloud

The public cloud has most of the same features as a managed private cloud, except it also includes the servers, storage and networking for rent. You could define the public cloud as “hosted cloud computing resources provided virtualized as a service to external customers typically over the public internet”. Some people refer to it as “computing as a service”.

Some find the use of the word ‘public’ to be misleading and raises concerns over data security but ‘public’ does not mean your data is public or that it is somehow insecure! It is perhaps better to understand the word ‘public’ to mean that anyone with a credit card can setup an account and get started but each account is private to the owner. Via a web browser user interface you can select what servers (etc.) you need and allocate them to your account and business use. The Public Cloud Service Provider has bought and hosted a lot of computers, networking and storage and made it available to rent. It is typically offered on an on-demand consumption or ‘pay-for-what-you-use’ basis, but pre-commitments can be used to guarantee resource availability and get better pricing.

The most common cloud providers are Amazon Web Services (“AWS”), Microsoft Azure (“Azure”) and Google Cloud Platform (“GCP”). There are, of course many, many others.

IaaS, PaaS and SaaS

These are common acronyms to represent the following:

  • IaaS – infrastructure as a service
  • PaaS – platform as a service
  • SaaS – software as a service


When most people speak of the cloud, they are referring to Infrastructure-as-a-Service (‘IaaS’ for short). To put it simply, this is renting infrastructure like servers, storage and networking typically by the minute or based on consumption. While they are just the basic building blocks of an IT service they typically come with some basic needs met, like specific operating systems pre-installed for you but you are responsible for deploying everything your business needs on top of that.


Platform-as-a-Service refers to IaaS further simplified into a more easily consumable package. For example, with IaaS you would manually setup, configure and host your software code on cloud servers and configure or write further logic to scale and distribute workload across them. With PaaS you could simply deploy your code to services like AWS’s ‘Elastic BeanStalk’ to automatically scale and distribute your service and workloads without really needing to worry about managing servers

or operating system updates, or things like scalability and availability. These services can be quicker and easier to deploy apps but may not be flexible enough to suit your needs.


‘Software-as-a-Service’ goes one step higher to complete solutions that may have been built on top of IaaS or PaaS and typically provide ready to use tools or features without needing to install any software. You may simply just setup an account, configure solution a little to your needs (such as defining custom fields) and add your data to take advantage almost immediately without you ever needing to worry about the infrastructure or management. Some common examples might include Salesforce or QuickBooks. SaaS Solutions typically focus on a single solution or ‘vertical’ in your workflow. For example, they may just focus on the review & approve stage such as with Frame.io.

Managed Service Providers

There are also managed service providers who can provide both IaaS and SaaS entirely managed, so you don’t need to worry about deploying and managing infrastructure or even licensing software as it’s all under a single contract. They typically have ready-made and integrated solutions for all parts of your workflow and not just individual elements. These services often also include support and training for these offerings. In some cases, they can also be cheaper than going direct to the individual suppliers, especially when considering their bulk buying power. The largest example of a Cloud Managed Service Provider in the Media & Entertainment industry is Base Media Cloud.


Hopefully this has been a nice and simple introduction and overview to finally put these questions to bed. If you would like more in this series to explain some more of the basics of the cloud, please comment with what you’d like to know and I’ll try to write a follow up with further articles on those topics to help further.

For a much better description, you’re also more than welcome to check out my course – The Cloud: A Comprehensive Overview: https://theiabm.org/the-cloud-a-comprehensive-overview-for- technology-creative-and-business-people/

About the Author

Damon Neale, https://www.linkedin.com/in/damonneale/

Damon has 15+ years of experience leading professional services on £multi-million international technology change programmes for large organizations. He has expertise in the analysis, design and implementation of bespoke AI/ML, cloud (including hybrid and multi-cloud), streaming, video formats and media workflow solutions; also developing training courses and talking at international conferences on these topics.

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