The Cloud

As a businessperson, you’ve undoubtedly heard of “the cloud.” In fact, you probably even use it every day.

But do you actually know what it is?

Managed service providers, or MSPs, often talk about this term like the definition should be a given: “Of course everyone knows what the cloud is!”

Well, maybe not.

There are many terms like this: the cloud, firewall, disaseter recovery plan, multifactor authentication, phishing, etc. IT professionals throw them around and expect you to know what they’re talking about. In the end, all these causes are problems with communication and low-quality IT service.

Fortunately, however, it’s beginning to change. An increasing number of managed service providers are becoming aware that they use unnecessarily complicated (or downright uninformative) terms to define their work. Furthermore, they’re not interested in letting marketers define their terms for them.

While everyone understands that terminology is an important element to any industry, it’s critical to speak and straightforwardly to your clients when it comes to IT. This is so that the client can understand exactly what they are paying for and know whether their IT services are being effective.

If a managed service provider is working with a dental office, they have to understand that the dentists and dental technicians have their own terminology to master. The MSP’s job is to handle the dental office’s information technology — not to force an entirely new dictionary of words and definitions onto its employees or leave them in the dark about their services.

As evidence of this, many managed service providers are pushing to use a different term other than “The Cloud.” Ahead, we’ll look at the actual definition of this term and how it may change in the future.

What do IT specialists mean when they say “the cloud”?

Like many terms related to information technology, it’s not easy to define the cloud. It has a lot of different meanings to a lot of different people. We are going to stick to the easiest definition for our purposes.

First, most people know that the cloud has something to do with data storage. For example, even someone who has nothing to do with information technology may use Dropbox or Google Drive, both of which utilize the cloud.

Still, “cloud computing,” as it is often called, is a bit more complicated than simply the place where you store your family photos through iPhoto.

Essentially, you should think of the cloud as two things: A gigantic network of computers and a service.

First, remember that the cloud is not an ethereal, invisible space where things are stored. It’s called the cloud because many people feel that it’s easier to picture it as a nebulous physical cloud up in the air. The only way it is like real clouds in that both are made up of minimal parts (a bunch of water molecules for weather clouds and a giant cluster of computers for IT clouds), and both appear as one giant object from a distance.

It would be best to think of the cloud as the giant cluster of computers instead of a real cloud. Instead of your hardware and software at work being stored physically within your business or within networks that are within your business, when you use “the cloud,” your hardware and software are stored on this remote network of computers.

However, the cloud is also a service because many companies sell the use of their technology and storage space. They basically rent it out to companies like yours who want it for storage, power, backups, software, hardware, and more. In the end, they are spending all the upfront costs and setting everything up, and you are using their computers and networks to conduct your business and store data more easily.

Why do some IT experts want to change the term “the cloud”?

Many IT specialists feel that the term “the cloud” is simply a buzzword made by marketers. As you now know, there is no lofty space up in the air where we can all throw our photos, songs, and information. The cloud is based in humming, whizzing computers just like the one you’re looking at right now (it’s just that the cloud uses many more of them, and they’re a lot bigger).

Are you frequently confused by MSP terms and definitions? You’re not alone.

It’s not uncommon for clients of managed service providers to feel out of the loop when they can’t understand the terminology used by the MSPs they hire. This is unfortunate, and it is incumbent upon the IT technicians who own and work for MSPs to improve their use of terminology and utilize more colloquial terms.

This doesn’t mean that terms and definitions need to be “dumbed down.” Instead, it’s about conveying messages in simple-to-understand terms rather than amping up the use of highly technical words and, sometimes, words that have only been in use for months at a time in the first place.

Because of the rapidly changing nature of information technology, many of these new words appear on the scene out of nowhere. It shouldn’t be up to the clients to understand what they are. It should be up to the managed service providers and the IT technicians who work for them to be able to convey their messages using simple vernacular.

If you are a business owner who has been confounded by complicated information technology terms before, make this known to your managed service provider and the individual technicians you work with. Please don’t be ashamed to ask questions about the terms they use.

If you truly feel out of the loop because you don’t understand how your MSP is working to keep your business running smoothly and safely, consider hiring a new managed service provider. You should feel confident in the work they are doing. You should also feel like you can easily understand what they are saying when they speak about information technology’s important business.