The term "cloud" comes from early network diagrams, in which the image of a cloud was used to indicate a large network, such as a WAN. The cloud eventually became associated with the entire Internet, and the two terms are now used synonymously. The cloud may also be used to describe specific online services, which are collectively labeled "cloud computing."

Examples of popular cloud-based services include web applications, SaaS, online backup, and other types of online storage. Traditional Internet services like web hosting, email, and online gaming may also be considered part of the cloud since they are hosted on Internet servers, rather than users' local computers. Even social networking websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn are technically cloud-based services, since they store your information online.

While "the cloud" is simply a buzzword for most consumers, it plays an important role for businesses. By moving software services to the cloud, companies can share data more efficiently and centralize their network security. Additionally, cloud-based virtualization can help businesses reduce the number of computer systems and software licenses they need to buy. The end result and a more efficient and less costly way of running a business.

Updated May 30, 2012 by Per C.

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