What do you think of when you hear the word “cloud?”
If you thought “rain,” you’re not alone – according to a 2012 Wakefield Research survey, 29% of respondents think that the cloud has something to do with weather. So what exactly is the cloud?
What is the cloud?
The cloud is actually a network for storing, sharing, and accessing data online. Software, applications, and more are stored and run on the Web instead of on your computer. The name comes from the cloud-like shape used to represent the Internet.
You might be surprised to learn that you probably use the cloud every day. Though only 54% of survey respondents reported knowingly using the cloud, 95% actually use cloud-based services.
That’s right – your Facebook photos, the contents of your Gmail inbox, and all your tweets are stored online in the cloud. And every time you watch a Youtube video, Skype a friend, or update your LinkedIn profile, you’re using the cloud, too. Cloud computing is also used in online banking, document sharing, and word processing programs.
So – what does all that mean? Basically, it means that every time you store or upload information to an online program, it’s being stored on the Web – rather than on your personal computer. Cloud computing doesn’t have the storage limits of individual devices, so you can store more information – and access it anywhere. And there are tons of other benefits to cloud computing.
Benefits of cloud computing
When you store information in the cloud, you can access it on any Internet-connected device – your laptop, home computer, tablet, smartphone, or even computers in the library or at work. That’s why you can check Facebook on your laptop and phone and listen to your music library on your tablet or PC. With cloud computing, you can access all your accounts and data on any device.
Cloud computing makes it easier to share data – among friends, coworkers, and anyone else you want. Forget mailing documents – or even sending them through email. With cloud programs like Google Drive, you can upload documents and share them with anyone with an Internet connection in a matter of seconds.
Applications that use the cloud are much more affordable than traditional software programs. Instead of buying multiple copies of expensive programs that need to be uploaded to all your devices – like Microsoft Office – you can get one program and access it on any device. Many cloud-based programs – like Google Docs and Dropbox – are even free.
Better data backup
When you store documents and data on your personal computer, you run the risk of losing that information for good if your computer breaks or dies. But with cloud storage services, your data isn’t saved to one computer – it’s saved to an online network that can be accessed from any device. That means your data will be backed up even if your computer dies.
What will the cloud look like in the future?
Cloud computing is growing, both for business and personal use. Even traditional software companies are getting into the cloud.
Microsoft recently released an updated version of its cloud service, SkyDrive. SkyDrive combines cloud computing with local storage. SkyDrive files look like regular files on your computer, with folders and desktop thumbnails. But when you open those files, they’re pulled from the cloud instead of your computer. Access your SkyDrive files on any PC or Mac as well as Android or iOS devices.