Cloud computing vs Cloud storage: What's the difference?

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The “cloud” may have become a common term in business, and even consumer circles, but there remains some confusion over what it actually means. For a start, individuals will most commonly engage with the cloud through any number of well-known storage platforms, like Google Drive or Dropbox. But these are simply cloud storage solutions and don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what cloud computing is all about. 

Cloud computing is a broader term than cloud storage and encompasses a whole range of solutions - of which storage is just one example. However, because cloud storage is a form of cloud computing, you may sometimes see the two terms used interchangeably. Even so, it’s important to recognize the differences. 

Below, we’ve cleared up exactly what the difference is between cloud computing and cloud storage. For businesses, in particular, understanding the subtly different terminology used when talking about the cloud is essential - especially if they want to sign up for a package that suits their bespoke needs.  

What exactly do cloud computing and cloud storage mean?

In a nutshell, cloud storage is a form of cloud computing that specifically concerns the storage of files or data in remote servers that can be accessed via an internet connection. To gain access to cloud storage, individuals and businesses have to sign up with a third-party cloud storage provider - and fortunately, there are plenty on the market. That’s why we’ve reviewed a broad spectrum of providers to show you the best cloud storage solutions currently available. 

On the other hand, cloud computing is used generally to describe any sort of service that resides in the cloud. This could be software, termed software-as-a-service, cloud backup, or any other sort of resource delivered remotely over the internet. Essentially, cloud storage is a form of cloud computing but cloud computing doesn’t always involve storage. 

Some cloud storage examples

Despite cloud computing encompassing a broad range of services, there’s no getting away from the fact that cloud storage is one of the best-known and widely used. Being able to access files via any device (providing it has an internet connection) has greatly enhanced productivity and collaboration in the workplace. With the rise of hybrid working, the ability to access storage remotely has become fundamental to daily life. It means that work resources can be accessed outside of the office. 

Some of the best-known cloud storage tools are Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, iDrive, and Backblaze. These solutions are popular because of their ease of use and affordability, with businesses having to choose from both free and paid cloud storage solutions. When making such a decision, it’s a good idea to evaluate the different features on offer with each platform. 

Some cloud storage vendors, although primarily concerned with the secure storage of a user’s documents, will also provide advanced functionality. This could be in the form of a suite of office tools, as is the case with Google Drive, or integrations with VPNs and other tools. 

Upload and download speeds are another area where cloud storage solutions can be evaluated. While this is unlikely to be a major consideration for more casual users, larger businesses may be storing and accessing substantial files frequently in the cloud. If that’s the case, the time it takes to store and access them can make a huge difference to employee productivity. This is something to keep in mind when choosing a vendor. 

What are some other examples of cloud computing?

Aside from storage, there are many other types of cloud computing that it’s good to be aware of. First of all, users of the cloud will have to choose between private clouds, public clouds, and hybrid clouds. While public clouds are shared across organizations, a private cloud is dedicated solely to a single business. A hybrid cloud, meanwhile, describes an environment that uses both private and public clouds. 

After that’s been decided, there’s plenty more choice on offer with cloud computing. This encompasses social networking, CRMs and productivity management tools, ITSM and ITOM software, online streaming services and big data analysis.

Given the extra computing power (and storage) that can be leveraged through cloud computing, this area of technology is only likely to grow in prominence. Cutting-edge developments like artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the metaverse will all employ cloud computing in some form. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the cloud computing market is predicted to be worth $791.48 billion by 2028.

Want to know more about cloud computing and cloud storage?

Want some further insight on the differences between similarly named cloud terms? Well, we’ve got you covered. Fran Villalba Segarra, CEO of cloud storage company Internxt, wrote extensively on how cloud storage works and on whether cloud storage is safe, secure and private and we found out that the term cloud storage actually dates back from 1896 and was used to describe just that: how to store clouds. Andrew Martin, UK MD for Egnyte, a business cloud storage provider, investigated the pros and cons of on-premise vs cloud storage setups. And finally, make sure you check our comparison, Cloud storage vs Cloud backup vs Cloud sync, written by Jay El-Anis from UK cloud storage provider, Zoolz

Barclay Ballard

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with ITProPortal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.