Just what is cloud computing anyway?

There is no official definition and straight forward way to explain what exactly cloud computing is? Skeptics might say it is nothing but industry hyperbole, visionaries might say it is the future of IT. In a way, both the statements are true-cloud computing has been embellished by the tech industry, but it does hold real potential for new types of on-demand dynamic IT services.

The analogy is, ‘If you need milk, would you buy a cow?’

A simple example of cloud computing is Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail. You do not need software or a server to use them. All you would need is an internet connection and you can start sending emails. The server and email management software is all on the cloud (internet) and is totally managed by the cloud service provider, which in this case, can be Google, Yahoo or Hotmail. The consumer gets to use the software alone and enjoy the benefits.

To summarize:

  • Cloud computing spans numerous models. Cloud computing isn’t just one thing; rather, it is a number of customizable options to fit IT and business requirements.
  • Large organizations are on an evolutionary journey to the cloud. Cloud computing builds upon current IT trends like data center
    consolidation and server virtualization. Enterprises will follow a pragmatic path to the cloud by adopting new technologies, transitioning from physical to virtual IT assets, and adapting existing IT best practices to a new dynamic world.
  • The network acts as the foundation for cloud computing. Cloud computing moves Web-based applications to the Internet inexorably tying user connectivity and productivity to networking equipment. Of all networking technologies available, WAN optimization plays a major role in the transition to the cloud.

Decomposing Cloud Computing

The Services

Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the Internet. These services are broadly divided into three categories:

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Iaas is a provision model in which an organization outsources the equipment used to support operations, including storage, hardware, servers and networking components. The service provider owns the equipment and is responsible for housing, running and maintaining it. The client typically pays on a per-use basis.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

PaaS is a way to rent hardware, operating systems, storage and network capacity over the Internet. The service delivery model allows the customer to rent virtualized servers and associated services for running existing applications or developing and testing new ones.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

SaaS is a software distribution model in which applications are hosted by a vendor or service provider and made available to customers over a network, typically the Internet. SaaS is closely related to the ASP (application service provider) and on demand computing software delivery models.

Writing on the cloud

Software like Google Docs is catch­ing on. While it’s cur­rently viewed as a “lite” ver­sion of Microsoft Office, it’s improv­ing all the time. Google is also look­ing at cre­at­ing an offline model in case you’re work­ing at a loca­tion that does not have Inter­net access.
Cloud solutions are possible or already available for most applications that have to do with technical documentation. This includes editing systems, as well as authoring systems, translation memory systems and terminology databases. If a company implements the cloud model for its technical documentation, the architecture could look like this: The editing system, author supporting software and the terminology database are installed on the central servers. These servers are maintained by the service provider. He manages the applications and takes care of the update of services. The users at the end customer, e.g. the technical editors, use the services from their end device via internet browser. Even partners, such as external editing service providers or translators have access, which may make sense, especially for common population and use of the terminology database of a translation memory system for instance. All functions can thus be steered over the internet; even the data management is centralized.
Users can access these services available on the Internet Cloud without having any previous knowledge on managing the resources involved.
For example, when a technical writer is not at his or her desk and requires to update a technical documentation or training materials, cloud computing offers new answers to these problems.

Unlike systems based on client and server, additional software on the client computer is not required for working in the cloud. Different locations, external service providers, partners and customer can thus be integrated.
This model can be helpful for supply documentation as well. For instance, if an automotive manufacturer creates the documentation for his vehicles in a web based system, then the documents of the supplier can also be integrated there. The supplier gets a corresponding input right. Other software to be installed by him is not required


The advantages of using Cloud computing are:

  • Collaboration – Teams can work together instead of working through a closed network. Team members can talk to each other about changes that need to be made and then go ahead and make them.
  • Global team network – Since technical writing and training development teams don’t need to be stationed in one location, you can hire the best talent out there. Without a need for relocation, companies save money and still get high quality work, around the clock.
  • Multiple storage options – When saving a document in the cloud, the document can also be stored on the technical writer’s or training developer’s home computer as well as on the cloud server. This allows for backup copies, ensuring safety for the work that has been completed.

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Comment by David Moore on October 19, 2012 at 1:36am

The article looks good. Are you into this domain?

Comment by Pallavi Ghosh on October 19, 2012 at 10:01am

Thanks!!! Yes, we are currently migrating all the technical documentation on cloud for obvious reasons.

Comment by Dimitri Tetsch on May 2, 2014 at 5:47am

HelpServer’s web- and server-based approach allows authors to work together from anywhere. All Authors contribute content to a single data source (=database on a web server). Authors are able to reuse these content objects in several assets without losing track of what is used where. This approach prevents redundancy ensuring content accuracy for all your deliverables.

With HelpServer your documentation process becomes easier to manage and your authoring team gets everything they need to manage & deliver up-to-date multi-lingual documentation from a single source to your target audience:

  • Collaborate in true real-time and store content in a database on a web server.
  • Create books/chapters/topics in HelpServer using the built-in editor and/or upload existing files / images.
  • Publish content to make it available in real time via a front-end documentation website or as context-sensitive help.
  • Export content to a variety of popular file formats: PDF, CHM, HTML, XML and DITA.
  • HelpServer supports: structured authoring, workflow, feedback, versioning and auditing.

HelpServer can be installed on your premises (hosted on your web server) or can be hosted from one of the HelpServer's vendor web servers. Authors can install a client workbench (authoring tool) on their computer or can load the HelpServer workbench inside their browser.

For more information visit


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