How to Explain Cloud Computing to Your Grandmother

Jordan Scott
Jordan Scott
In General
Jordan Scott is the Content Marketing Manager at Xactly. She attended The University of California at Santa Cruz, and received degrees in Literature and Education.

Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply you don’t understand it well enough.” There’s no shame in admitting that while the cloud has become a major buzzword the past few years, you never really understood what it meant. You had a vague understanding of the turn towards the cloud and away from on-premises software. Or maybe you understand it perfectly, but you’d have a tough time explaining ‘the cloud’ in simple terms to your grandmother.

And this is exactly the situation I found myself in recently. I was at a family gathering explaining what Xactly’s Software-as-a-Service (Saas) solution was, and talking about the definition of incentive compensation in general. And then…

Grandma: What is cloud anyway? I keep hearing about this on the news, is it something in the sky?

Me: Ha, well no, not really.

And then I thought, how can I best explain the cloud to my 85-year-old grandma?

That interaction got me thinking about this blog post, if you work at a SaaS company and find yourself at a loss for how to describe your job in layman’s terms at every family gathering, here’s your solution folks:

In common usage, the cloud, or SaaS, refers to a product that you purchase and access over the Internet, rather than as a tangible good. You don’t need to install  anything on your computer, and the owner of the product you are using (usually on a subscription basis) stores all the information for you in the company’s data storage center.

When someone purchases a SaaS product, they eliminate the current problem of buying software only to be told one year later that you have to buy the newest version if you want the most recent capabilities. With SaaS, all the newest capabilities are instantly updated and available without any installation. In addition, many SaaS applications have mobile compatibility

So where did the term ‘the cloud’ came from in the first place?

Unsurprisingly, that’s a heated debate. There are varying origin stories crediting Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt, who some claim introduced the term at an industry conference in 2006. Others swear it was as early as 1996 at Compaq Computers, where a small group of tech executives had coined the term. Interestingly enough, yet another story of origin comes from a company that no longer exists – NetCentric – who used the term in company documents as early as 1997.

While the origin of ‘the cloud’ may never be crystal clear, one thing is: It isn’t going anywhere, and continues to experience growth and success in the market. According to an InfoPro Cloud Computing study, “the worldwide cloud computing market will grow at a 36% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2016, reaching a market size of $19.5B by 2016.”

Fun Facts:

Tweet this: The cloud symbol was used to represent the Internet as early as 1994 when servers were shown as connected to, but external from, the cloud.

Tweet this: The term cloud computing occurs 48 million times on the Internet



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How to Explain Cloud Computing to Your Grandmother