Defining cloud storage: The most popular cloud terms

As cloud storage increases in popularity, there's a growing list of cloud terms data storage pros should know. Here are the 10 most-searched-for definitions.

So many cloud terms to learn, so little time.

If you're an IT pro who will be advocating for cloud storage project funding, or if you just want to get a head start on understanding the technology, these cloud storage definitions will help you gain a solid understanding of the fundamentals. These cloud terms cover everything from service-level agreements (SLAs) to the nuts and bolts of a cloud storage infrastructure, and they can help you sound like a cloud storage professional when talking to team members, your chief information officer and your vendor.

1. What is cloud storage?

It's no surprise this term is at the top of our list because analysts and vendors alike are struggling to determine what cloud storage truly is. Cloud storage options are broken into three categories -- public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud -- each with its defining factors to help distinguish it from the others.

2. What is a cloud storage SLA?

A cloud storage service-level agreement is crucial for any organization looking to move to cloud storage. This contract between a customer and their cloud storage service provider provides guarantees and details the services being offered, such as 99.9% uptime.

3. What is cloud washing?

The chances that you’ve been cloud washed are pretty good. It means a vendor has slapped a cloud label onto a product that isn't truly a cloud offering. For tips on how to avoid cloud washing, listen to our expert podcast with ESG senior analyst Terri McClure.

4. What is cloud insurance?

This is a risk management approach often included in a cloud service-level agreement. This contractual cloud insurance policy guarantees financial compensation if downtime or failures are made by the service provider.

5. What is a green cloud?

Part of the buzz surrounding cloud technology is the opportunity to reduce your organization's data footprint. Research indicates that the potential for green storage benefits exist for organizations switching to cloud storage solutions, including a nearly 40% reduction in data center energy worldwide by 2020.

6. What is cloud drive storage?

This refers to mounting a cloud storage option so that it simply appears as a drive letter for users in the interface. This allows the server to treat the cloud storage drive as if it were on direct-attached storage (DAS) or a shared storage filer.

7. What is a cloud storage service?

Any company that provides cloud storage services is considered a cloud storage service provider. These services can range from those supplied by public cloud storage, such as Amazon S3 or Windows Azure, to offerings from private cloud storage companies such as Hitachi, Nasuni or StorSimple.

8. What is a cloud storage gateway?

Cloud storage gateways allow users interested in a public cloud solution to form a bridge of sorts between local applications and remote cloud-based storage. This is a necessity in certain cases because legacy applications and public cloud technologies use different protocols, therefore making them incompatible. Be sure to check out the recent in-depth podcast on cloud gateways that assistant site editor Rachel Kossman conducted with Gartner research director Gene Ruth.

9. What is cloud file storage?

This Internet-based storage option, often called CFS, is billed as a pay-per-use service that's best for unstructured or semi-structured data: documents, emails, spreadsheets, presentations and so on. ESG senior analyst Terri McClure shared her views on the benefits and best uses cases of cloud document sharing in a recent podcast.

10. What is a cloud storage infrastructure?

Simply put, a cloud infrastructure is the software and hardware components needed to meet the requirements of a cloud storage model. These requirements can include virtualization software, servers and operating systems -- yet they differentiate a cloud storage solution from a normal storage solution in that the system must be able to access files remotely through a network.

This was first published in February 2012

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