If you’re anything like the average technology consumer, you’ve heard of the term “The Cloud” but you’re either only vaguely familiar with what it is or have no idea what is means at all.
The fact is that despite not many people really knowing what it is, most people do use it, it’s just that they might not realise it. So let’s clear up a few things, and let us concisely explain what “The Cloud” is, and isn’t.
Cloud Storage. Cloud Services. Cloud Infrastructure. Cloud Computing. Cloud hosting. Cloud this. Cloud that. Cloud, cloud, cloud. What does it all mean?
So what is The Cloud?
In a way, “The Cloud” is synonymous with the Internet. This means it does not concern your computer. It doesn’t not concern your computer’s hard drive, or a CD or a DVD you have, nor a USB stick. It means cyberspace. It’s Internet based.
So anything that is Internet-based could be referred to as a Cloud technology.
So…. take for example Cloud Storage…
When you save something on your computer, or on a USB stick, or on an external hard drive plugged in to your computer, that’s local storage. You’re storing a document on a storage device physically located right next to you. Of perhaps you’re on a work network and you save a document on a shared drive that you can your workmates can all access… that’s a network storage device.
None of that is Cloud Storage.
Cloud storage is storing a document across the Internet. The file is transferred to a location across the Internet, where you can retrieve it at a later date. This means that theoretically if you lose all of your PCs, laptops, smartphones and anything else… your document is still safe, because it isn’t on any of those devices.
This means Cloud storage is a popular solution to backing up those important files. iCloud, SkyDrive, DropBox… these are all examples of Cloud storage.
Okay…. getting there… Cloud services or Cloud computing?
Services or programs that are accessed through the Internet and are NOT installed on your computer would also count as cloud computing. This can include web-based email like Microsoft’s Outlook (Hotmail) accounts, or programs that you access through your web browser where the processing isn’t done on your computer.
So where is the Cloud?
Physically, The Cloud is located almost everywhere, since the Internet reaches almost everywhere. What’s important to know is that “The Cloud” isn’t located where you are. If you live in the UK and you use Cloud Storage from a company with data servers in California, USA, then for that service, The Cloud is in California. But of course this may change depending on what service you use. The point is it is accessed over the Internet.
For the most part, it doesn’t really matter where exactly “The Cloud” is coming from or going to, you just need to be aware that it has nothing to do with your computer’s hard drive or any local storage you have physically near you.
Do I already use “The Cloud?”
Probably. Do you have an iPhone? These can automatically back-up all your photos and videos to the iCloud. That’s cloud storage. Or perhaps you use Microsoft’s OneDrive? That’s also cloud storage. If you use Microsoft’s Office Online, that’s cloud computing.
Even Facebook is a type of cloud service. After all, you didn’t install Facebook on your computer and you don’t need to install the Facebook app on your phone to access it. You can also upload photos and other content to Facebook making it another type of cloud storage.
Ultimately, Cloud computing and the services it encompasses are everywhere and just like the reach of the Internet, it is only going to become more widespread.