How to Explain "The Cloud" to Relatives

The holidays are right around the corner which usually means that you’ll be spending more time with family. It’s a great time of the year to decompress and catch up with extended family that you might not have seen since last Thanksgiving or Christmas. After the turkey or ham, conversations spark which leads to talking about life and jobs. And when your family finds out that you work in IT, two things happen: 1.) They want you to look at their computer because it’s too slow or something isn’t working right, or 2.) What is the cloud?

We have a running joke at Infiniti Consulting that we just tell our families that we are car salesmen because it’s easier than explaining the cloud and they recoginize Infiniti as the car manufacturer. Most of the time that doesn’t work and I get stuck looking at a computer still running Windows Vista or trying to put the cloud in layman’s terms which looks like the picture below.

The Cloud

Here’s a couple of my favorite analogies:

Imagine you have a freezer full of 20 steaks at home. The power goes out and all 20 steaks go bad. Instead of storing all of your steaks at home, you can have a company store all of your steaks and more in a mucher bigger freezer with a bunch of backup generators for a fee. Think of the steaks as your data and the freezer as the cloud.

Take for example that you want to travel by train. In order to travel by train, you don’t need to buy a train and you probably can’t afford it. You simply buy a train ticket, use the train to get to your destination, and then get off. Similarly, you want run an application like a personal blog (i.e. You don’t need to buy a datacenter or servers to run the application and you probably can’t afford it. You simply use the cloud, pay for what you use (basically rent a server), and you can turn it off at anytime.

SIDE NOTE: Avoid mentioning AWS. As soon as they hear Amazon, they immediately think of the retail company and only leads to more confusion.

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