A man in a business suit holding a digital cloud image.

What Is the Cloud?

Today, technology has changed everything. One aspect of technology that has advanced beyond what most might have predicted is the way in which we now store digital data. You’ve probably heard the term “the cloud,” or “cloud computing,” in regards to digital storage. And you’ve probably heard it a lot—it’s becoming more and more popular as a solution to storing and retrieving an abundance of files. If you’re looking for an explanation of just what those terms mean and what the cloud really is, look no further.

What is it?

Essentially, cloud storage is a way to save or access information to and from remote servers, thus saving you that space (or at least not requiring you to have the actual data) on your device. A lot of times, when someone says cloud, we immediately think of methods of storage, but this isn’t always the case. You’d probably be surprised to find out how much we as a population use cloud-based services.

Cloud-Based Services

There are the obvious examples—like iCloud, Google Drive, or Dropbox: services that offer you offsite storage—but these only make up a fraction of the services we use that rely on cloud computing. Your favorite streaming sites, such as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Instant Video, all use cloud technology to grant customers access to a myriad of files. None of these files are actually present on the device you use to stream them: they are simply being shared from these companies’ offsite servers.

It might surprise people to know that their favorite social media outlets are also run using cloud technology. Once you think about it, however, it makes sense: Facebook, Twitter, and other sites allow you to access past posts that are not saved to your device. Similarly, any service that allows you to access information only through that particular service probably uses the cloud in one way or another. E-mail, for example, allows you to gain access to all of your messages from any location as long as you go through your provider. When you log into your email, you are accessing the data through some offsite storage provided by the company.

In conclusion, the cloud is used in any service that allows you to see information that you yourself do not have saved. Without cloud storage, our devices would be cluttered. If every email was saved directly to your computer, or every post you made on Facebook needed to be stored on your drive, we’d find ourselves overwhelmed with data. But, thanks to the cloud, we can use the services we enjoy without having to provide the storage space. 

Last Updated: January 12, 2015