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Sorry if this is the wrong S/E for this type of question.

Well, I am asking what is a "Cloud Provider"? Is it just a hosting site? Is it something special? I know that the "Cloud" means internet, but thats all.

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In the most common context at the moment, "Cloud" probably doesn't mean "the internet" though its not a protected term so anyone can call anything they like a cloud. A cloud provider, therefore, is someone who says "We're a cloud provider". I'm sure someone will come along and tell you it's all about technology and some such, but it isn't like there's a law that says you have to have so many resources of such a certain type to call yourself a cloud provider or an ISP or whatever. I know this sounds like I'm being facetious, but there is a serious point here: don't get too hung up on names. – RobM Nov 28 '10 at 11:31
Well summed up, Mr Moir. – Rich Nov 28 '10 at 11:45
So a "Cloud" can be anything? If I wanted to name my hosting service with "Cloud" in it, it would be okay? – omnix Nov 28 '10 at 13:11
You can name your hosting service "cloud's cloudy cloud" if you want. It's just a word, not a protected term, like calling yourself a medical doctor or a lawyer, for example. The most common use of the word "cloud" currently does have a commonly used meaning, so I'd suggest not using it unless you're offering a service that meets that definition (see wikipedia I'm not saying that's the "one true definition" by the way (see earlier comment), just that it's one current definition. – RobM Nov 28 '10 at 14:02
"Cloud Provider" - if you say it enough in business meetings people start throwing money at you, because upper level management has been told that being a "cloud provider"=money. Its really just one of the business keywords that doesn't connote anything at all. In my view it typically means the consumer gets whatever service the 'provider' says they offer and then end user doesn't worry about how or why that service actually works (this is the 'cloud' part - very hazy can't really see what's going on or why. Cloud.) they just use it. – Marm0t Nov 28 '10 at 16:11
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Although "cloud" is largely the buzzword du jour, and people are using it for anything they want to sell, it generally means one of three things:

  1. Lightweight virtual hosting, where you can deploy any number of dedicated virtual servers yourself by interacting with an API or simply a web page, and where you're generally billed per hour of use. Amazon EC2 is the prime example of this; Rackspace provides another.

  2. Lightweight application hosting, where you write a program specifically for a specialized (generally proprietary) platform, and the provider hosts and runs the code. Again, you normally configure this yourself -- no human at the provider company needs to attend to requests individually. Google App Engine and Microsoft Windows Azure are the big names here, but many Ruby-on-Rails providers could be counted as well.

  3. Software or infrastructure as a service, provided over the Internet and usually accessed through a web browser. In this sense, Google Docs or Photoshop Online might be counted, or even an Internet-based backup service. It could be anyone providing an app written on top of one of the above platforms, or it could simply be "on the internet!" This is where the term is at its most buzzwordy and least actually meaningful.

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