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"We are migrating our core systems into (1) The Cloud ... or (2) the cloud ... or (3) the Cloud???"

I've googled (Googled?) this and found the usual range of differing opinions but as yet no compelling answer so thought it would be worth posting here.

Am currently leaning towards (1) to distinguish it as the "one and only" cloud. But could probably be persuaded otherwise and would be interested to see what the general consensus is on here...

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It depends on the context, as much as any other similar term does. –  Kris Apr 26 '13 at 9:40
See this and this and this‌​. There is no one way that is always correct. –  user21497 Apr 26 '13 at 9:44
@Kris I've given the context in the quotation at the top of the question. –  Steve Chambers Apr 26 '13 at 9:50
@BillFranke +1 for finding three links that all do it differently. –  Steve Chambers Apr 26 '13 at 9:51
But you asked a generic question. –  Kris Apr 26 '13 at 9:53

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

John went into the city to deposit his money in the bank

We wouldn't say 'the Bank', as we don't mean one singular bank, rather a specific but unnamed bank.

I'd use 'the cloud' in a similar way — it takes the definite article, as you'll be referring to a particular cloud, but there's an ever growing number of public or private networks available that can all be referred to as 'the cloud'.

If you're looking for a collective noun, I'd stick with cloud computing.

Edit: Just to expand on your original post Steve, I'd definitely go with #2, 'the cloud' in this case; precisely because there isn't 'one & only cloud'. When you're using cloud computing in this context, what you're saying is that you're moving systems away from a physical server room in a particular building.

They won't however be distributed throughout every computer on the internet. Instead they'll be hosted in a shared, distributed networked. This could either be privately held with software like Cloud Foundary, or hosted by a company like Amazon or Rackspace.

These are all distinct options though, each which could be referred to as 'the cloud' individually, but when spoken about together wouldn't become 'the Cloud'.

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Thanks for your input. This is all very debatable I think! A fine point about whether the Cloud is referring to a particular cloud provider (in this case Microsoft Azure) or the concept of managed Internet services - there's only one Internet! Personally I'm thinking of the latter - to join in with your analogy, more akin to the Bank of England or perhaps more like the global financial system - but I mentioned the BoE because it has has clear capitalization ...or should I say capitalisation given I'm English and talking about something English but on an American site... what a minefield! :-) –  Steve Chambers Apr 26 '13 at 13:33
I'd agree that you'd use the term for the concept generally alright, though that's why I'd say it's not capitalised. We'd capitalise BoE as a proper noun (like if we said Cloud Foundry) but you wouldn't refer to the collective global financial system as the Bank, even though you could use the term the bank as a general placeholder for any individual banking entity. Definitely all debatable, but I'd tend to avoid making terms into proper nouns without a good reason :) –  anotherdave Apr 28 '13 at 15:22
Well, don't some people capitalize "the Internet"? That seems like a better analogy than "the bank" to me. –  sumelic Jul 20 at 0:20

It might be analogous to how we use the word sea.

"We threw it in the sea." (generic) "We uploaded it to the cloud." (generic) "We threw it in the Red Sea." (specific, proper noun) "We uploaded it to the Cloud Foundry." (specific, proper noun)

The generic "cloud" is a vague noun that refers to a wide range of places of places on the Internet/internet. Like "the mountains," "the sea," "the city," "the beach," and "the country," it should be lowercased. Those words are only capitalized when they are part of a longer proper noun--Rockaway Beach, New York City, Rocky Mountains, etc.

I went to the mountains last summer, but I'm going to the beach next summer. I'm from the country, but I moved to the city when I turned 25. We moved our data to the cloud.

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The Internet, like the Universe, is a single entity. Absent firewalls or other impediments one can input an IP address at any point in the Internet and communicate with that uniquely-identified endpoint.

"The cloud", on the other hand, is merely a concept, where data is stored "out there" rather than local to the user. What "the cloud" consists of is left to the individual service provider, and there are multiple "clouds" -- it is not a single entity (even though the marketing types like to pretend that it is).

When one says "the cloud", whether or not "cloud" is capitalized, it does not identify a specific entity, and what is "the cloud" to one user may be totally unknown and inaccessible to another. But there is only one Internet.

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I asked this question today, Googled, and found this discussion. I decided that there is already a proper noun sufficient to represent the most common meaning when we talk about the Cloud. Clouds as we refer to them here (or "The [sic] Cloud") make no sense without the Web. In the piece I was writing when I found this discussion, I decided to say it this way: "I have been trying to get my family to settle on a way to share pictures on the Web. I proposed OneDrive..." In other words, I sidestepped the need to talk about clouds at all. OneDrive is cloud storage, but that's irrelevant to the point I was trying to make. Again arguing descriptively and not proscriptively, consider what Wikipedia] has to say about the Web and a cloud (in the Information Technology sense). We have cloud computing, tag clouds, and cloud storage. I argue that when we think of "The Cloud" we are really talking about "the Web." Let's not add confusion to the language.

If you wish to argue about making Web a proper noun, see Should the words “internet” and “web” be capitalized?

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One does not capitalize The articles which accompany them merely because A noun they modify as A capital letter. This is An increasingly common mistake, and A distressing one at that. –  tchrist Jul 20 at 0:00

the Cloud

In the given context Cloud refers to a technological metaphor for the Internet, storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer's hard drive.

For decades, the cloud symbol has represented a network without divulging technical details. The symbol is used when only the points of entry and exit need to be identified. (http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia/term/39847/cloud)

Since you are generally referring to the cloud in a context where the cloud itself is not the focus but the effective difference it makes to computing in the practical sense is, the term is capitalized.

Notice that in the above paragraphs, I've not capitalized cloud, because this passage discusses the cloud and that's the focus here.

Threats and opportunities of the Cloud
Cloud computing offers the enterprise enormous opportunities: 56% of European decision-makers estimate that the Cloud is a priority between 2013 and 2014. (Wikipedia)

[EDIT] It was originally the internet in technical writing; when the term entered mainstream, it was (is) the Internet; today it's still mostly capitalized but is already tending towards the internet. The future will see the cloud.

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I find your justification for capitalizing the word incomprehensible. ("Since you are generally referring to the cloud in a context where the cloud itself is not the focus but the effective difference it makes to computing in the practical sense is, the term is capitalized.") –  onomatomaniak Apr 26 '13 at 14:30
@Steve I encourage you to switch your "accept" (and your capitalization policy) to the other answer. We do not capitalize based on "the concept" vs. "the reality" as the other answer argues. Otherwise, we'd talk about Love or about Processor Speed. Instead, we capitalize based on proper nouns, which "the cloud" is not. –  Charles Apr 29 '13 at 16:48

protected by tchrist Jul 20 at 0:00

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