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Explain Like I’m 5:  Cloud Jargon in Simple Terms

7 cloud terms broken down

Barrett Dilger

Cloud Knowledge

There’s a popular forum on Reddit called “Explain Like I’m 5” where people can ask questions and get simple to understand responses – as if they have the understanding of a child. It’s a refreshing take and I think we all wish we could get information this way, so we comprehend it instead of just nodding our heads and saying, “okay” hoping nobody figures out we have no idea what’s going on.

It’s also challenging when you know a topic to see if you can actually explain it without going into all the details and nuance that are involved. Can you ELI5?

Cloud Computing is one of those pesky topics that has its own jargon that makes it seem very obscure and unknowable. It isn’t.

It’s also important to know about Cloud Computing because it’s a prominent technology that will sooner or later take over everywhere. You should know the details so you can make some educated decisions regarding your business. So, let’s unravel some of that fancy talk so you can chat about the cloud like a pro.

ELI5: What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud Computing

Let’s start with the most basic. Imagine all of the data you store on your computer isn’t there, or even on a company server, but instead is out there on the internet. That’s cloud computing!

It makes your data easily accessible with the flexibility of only needing an internet connection to access it.

Public vs. Private vs. Hybrid Cloud

Public Cloud is like renting an apartment in a big building. You have your own personal space, but you share resources like laundry room, gym, pool area, and maybe even internet and tv.

Private Cloud is like having your own single-family home. The space is all yours, and all of the resources are exclusively yours and only used by you.

Hybrid Cloud is when you have one foot in each of the above worlds. It’s a mix of public and private solutions that are tailored to your needs.

IaaS, PaaS, SaaS (Not just random letters, I promise!)

IaaS stands for Infrastructure as a Service. It’s like renting the foundation of a house, then building what you want on it. You’re renting the basic infrastructure and deciding what to do with it.

PaaS stands for Platform as a Service. That’s like renting the house and getting to choose the interior design – a platform for developing and running your apps.

SaaS is short for Software as a Service. This is like Airbnb. You rent a fully furnished house for a specific time period. That house is software; and you can use it as long as you are subscribed to use it – Microsoft 365 and Dropbox are good examples.


Virtualization is like breaking down one physical thing into multiple smaller virtual versions of it.

Imagine having a big cake and cutting it into many slices to share with everyone. That’s how physical servers get broken down into virtual servers for multiple people to enjoy.

Edge Computing

Imagine you have a super smart friend who can help you with anything you need, but he lives far away so it’s always a wait when you ask a question. Now imagine he’s always right there at your side, available at an instant when you need him. That’s Edge computing.

Edge computing is about processing data closer to where you are, making it faster and more efficient. No need to connect to a centralized data center far away and wait for a reply.


Remember that rented apartment in the big building? Well, everybody there is a tenant. Multi-Tenancy is where a single instance of software serves multiple customers.

Maybe another analogy could be a soda fountain. There’s one machine, but each customer can choose which flavor they want.

API (Application Programming Interface)

API’s are connections to systems. Think of an API as your waiter in the restaurant. You place an order (wanting data) and the waiter goes to the kitchen (the system) to provide your food (data) and then the waiter brings it back to you.

The Wrap Up

Cloud Comparison

In a nutshell, that is all the basic cloud jargon you need to know. Next time someone throws a cloud word your way, you’ll be ready to toss it right back.

Mastered all these basics? Then check out our On-Prem vs Cloud infographic for an in-depth overview of all the benefits the cloud can bring to your business.

Looking to make the move to the cloud? We have a business guide that covers that. Also make sure to check out our guide on cloud security as well.

Of course, if you still need some help understanding any of it then book a no-strings-attached meeting with us. We’d love to meet you and see how we can help.