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Definition: cloud

A communications network. The word "cloud" often refers to the Internet, which more precisely means datacenters full of servers connected to the Internet performing services such as website hosting, email, video calling and streaming.

The term "cloud computing" refers to software and services over the Internet that have dramatically changed everyday life (see cloud computing). See private cloud and personal cloud.

A Cloud Can Be Any Network
A cloud can be a wide area network (WAN) like the public Internet or a private local area network (LAN) of any size, local or global. See LAN.

The Collective Cloud
The cloud comprises tens of millions of rack-mounted servers in mammoth datacenters run by Amazon, Google and Microsoft, along with hundreds of others worldwide. In total, the cloud consumes an enormous amount of the world's resources, and as more business is conducted and more people write more blogs and articles, the global repository of data increases tremendously every year. See big data and rack mounted.

Clouds Have Been Around for Decades
A cloud symbol is used to reduce a network into entry and exit points when the network architecture is not relevant to the diagram. Inside every cloud, cables, routers and switches handle the forwarding of data from one point to another. See router and switch.

Today's Cloud
Most of the time, the cloud being referenced is the Internet. See cloud computing and cloud storage.

What a Cloud Looks Like
Cloud datacenters are facilities with rows of rack-mounted servers. They are devoid of humans except when repairs have to be made.