These days, you might come across people talking about “the cloud.” Whether it’s storing files in the cloud, listening to music in the cloud or saving pictures to the cloud, more and more people are using “the cloud.”
But for those who haven’t quite caught on, “the cloud” still means those white puffy things in the sky. In technology, however, it’s something completely different.
Here’s a breakdown of what “the cloud” is and how regular, everyday people are using it.
What Do People Mean by “The Cloud”?
“The Cloud” is simply the trendy term for a network or remote servers that can be accessed via an Internet connection store and manage information. In other words, it’s a place other than you computer that you can use to store your stuff.
Before we had cloud storage services, we had to save all of our files to our computers, on our local hard drives. These days, we have multiple desktop computers, laptop computers, tablets and smartphones that we may need to access our files from.
The old method was to save the file to a USB key and transfer it to another computer, or email the file to yourself so you could open it on another machine. But today, cloud computing allows us to simply save a file on a remote server so it can be accessed from any machine that has an Internet connection.
For a lot of people, the experience of accessing files from anywhere is like pulling it down from the sky, or “the cloud.”
How It Works
There’s quite a bit of complex infrastructure that goes into cloud computing, and luckily, you don’t need to understand all of it to use it. You do, however, need to have a general understanding of Internet usage and preferably file management as well.
If you actively use the Internet and create and save files to your own computer, that’s all you need to understand how to use a cloud computing service.
If you want to store, manage or take files from the cloud, you almost always need a personal account for security reasons. Free accounts usually just require an email address and a password. Premium accounts require credit card information and charge you a recurring fee.
Examples of Popular Services that Use the Cloud
Dropbox: Dropbox is like your personal folder in the sky (or in the cloud) that can be accessed from anywhere.
Google Drive: Google Drive is just like Dropbox, but it integrates with all of your Google tools like Google Docs, Gmail and others.
Spotify: Spotify is a music streaming service that charges you a small monthly fee so that you can enjoy thousands upon thousands of songs as often as you want.
Rdio: Rdio is one of Spotify’s main competitor, which offers music streaming for a similar fee.
Choosing the Right Cloud Storage Service
Using a cloud storage service can make your life a lot simpler, especially if you need to access and change files from a number of machines, such as from home or from work.
Every cloud storage service has its advantages and disadvantages, and no service is perfect. Most offer free accounts as a basic and beginner option, with the opportunity to upgrade to bigger storage and bigger file options.
And if you already have an Apple machine or a Google account (like Gmail), then you already have a free cloud storage account and you probably don’t even know it!
Check out our review summaries of five of the most popular cloud storage options today. There you can see what kind of free storage you get, what kind of pricing is offered for more features, the maximum file size you can upload and what kind of desktop and mobile apps are offered.