Cloud-based is a technical term - as Mark points out above, it refers to shared computing. It's true that it may be "in our basement", and it's true that it's just on somebody else's computer. However, that may be good - as it relieves the customer of having to worry about issues that they may prefer to offload (OS patches, some aspects of security, scaling the hardware themselves, etc.). Of course Marketing abuses the term; that's what marketing departments exist for! It doesn't mean the term has no relevance. It's simply an incomplete specification, a partial description. The buyer should be asking lots of questions when they hear it.
I can see how the term "cloud based" has been significantly diluted by marketing speak, but to be very clear, it is a technical term.
"The cloud" refers to the fact that there is access to a shared pool of resources which are shared. There are also other characteristics which are shared, such as scalability and performance management by the cloud vendor. When I think of the cloud, as a software developer, I think of a company that will encounter so many different infrastructure/software issues proactively at a macro scale as such that I will not need to worry about those issues at a micro scale. Take AWS for example: In 2015, a massive Xen Hypervisor vulnerability was discovered. Read more here: https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/10/xen-patches-7-year-old-bug-that-shattered-hypervisor-security/ -> If you ran your own server farm or had some data hosted in a colo, you probably needed to manage patching all of those hosts while rebooting all of your applications. Bad for uptime. But, if you were on AWS, AWS was proactively looking to solve this problem in a way that did not impact uptime: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/03/02/aws_cloud_reboot_averted/ As cyber attacks becoming increasingly worrisome and impactful, it is reassuring that we are inheriting the work of hundreds of the best staff working on infrastructure in the biz vs. resting our hopes on a few people doing the right thing in a data center. As such, I don't really consider data centers or colo's the cloud. There's no way that 30 people working in a data center can compete on that macro-level iteration that most of the major cloud providers can provide.
Just remember...if you fly in a cloud you'll have a very rough ride, and if you stand under one your likely to get rained on! Wonder if the slick marketers ever thought of that??
I think not only is it marketing, but also a definition and concept thought up for folks who are not technical. I can describe 'the cloud' to a lay person and they'll know the data is stored on a company's servers and accessed via the Internet. For a great Onion view, check out http://www.theonion.com/video/hp-offers-that-cloud-thing-everyone-is-talking-abo-28789
SMS was ahead of the time when in the late '70s / early '80s it had its Shared Financial Management System hosted on a "cloud" in Malvern.
Not a technical term b/c so misused, as Mr. H points out.
Not completely useless.
Just Marketing b/c it means "We don't implement in your basement ... it's in our basement!"