Don’t Cloud the Meaning   Leave a comment

image of a cute kitten

Do we really have to do this again? Evidently, we do.

I work in the Information Technology field and have occasion to read and discuss matters related to “hosted” systems. These are computers and software that you (your company) use, but are housed and maintained by someone else, someplace else. A more recent marketing term calls these hosted systems “cloud” services or refers to these services as being “in the cloud.”

It’s bad enough that the term “hosting,” which has been around for a long time and is clearly understood, has had its identity moved to “the cloud.” But, I still hear people who sell these services, people who should know better, refer to the alternative as “on premise.”

Please, please, for the love of decency, stop!

Now, I will grant you that the etymology of the word premises makes this confusing. Word lore is interesting (it is to me, anyway) and, over time, word meanings change. However, at any given point in time, words have concrete meanings that are written down and published in tomes called, “dictionaries.” Let’s take a look, shall we?


  • Premise is a “a proposition supporting or helping to support a conclusion” and can also mean, in law, “a basis, stated or assumed, on which reasoning proceeds” or “an earlier statement in a document.”

    Based on the premise that my car runs, I will drive to work.

  • Premises, originally, was simply the plural of premise.

    Based on the premises that my car runs, it has gas, and I feel up to it, I will drive to work.

    Gradually, this plural form, likely plucked from contracts related to property transactions, began to take on a special meaning of “a tract of land including its buildings.”

    Therefore, we might read, the police reported that drugs and weapons were found on the premises.

It is very important at this point to note that this special derivation belongs to the plural form, premises, alone. The parent word, premise, does not retroactively inherit the same usage.

As a result, while we can say, “our email is hosted on premises,” we cannot say, “our email is hosted on premise” and mean the same thing.

Does that help?

Remember, every time you mix these terms up, a cute little kitten is tied to a train track somewhere. Well, probably not. But, why take the chance?

Posted Tuesday, October 18, 2011 by Grant in Technology

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