What is the Cloud?

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You’ve heard of “the Cloud”, but do you know what it is?  Do you know how it can benefit you?

3-2-1 Backup“the Cloud” Basics

What “the Cloud” is not; “the Cloud” is not some big storage space sitting out somewhere in the sky collecting and returning information.

“the Cloud” simply refers to any file (document, photo, video), data, or program that is stored over the Internet, not on your computer.  Office 365, Google Docs, DropBox are just a few examples of services that store these files or run programs over the Internet.  These services are actually utilizing computers in data centers to store your information.  As opposed to when you store data (or run programs) on your computer or hard drive, that’s called local storage computing.

So, when you take a photo with your smartphone, then later access it on your home computer by using a service; you are utilizing “the Cloud”.


For this article, we’re focusing on individual consumers or small businesses.  Large business deal with “the cloud” differently.  You’ve heard of Office 365, Office Online and Chromebooks?  Each of these are different examples of combining local storage computing with “the cloud”.

  • Office 365 is accessed from any of your devices to get to your files, which may be stored in OneDrive (which is in “the Cloud”).  This is an example of combining local storage computing with “the Cloud”.
  • Office Online is strictly Internet based and nothing is installed on your device.
  • Chromebook is a laptop. They have just enough local storage and power to run the Chrome Operating System (OS). With a Chromebook, most everything you do is online: apps, media, and storage are all in the cloud.

So, as technology advances we’ll find our devices and information becoming more intertwined with “the Cloud”.

Why should you use “the Cloud”?

Not too long ago, we just stored all our information on one device, which made it handy.  But it was only on that one device making it challenging to share files, photos or videos between devices.  Enter “the Cloud”.  Now you can seamlessly share information between all your devices.

What if you’re traveling somewhere and now you receive a message that your storage is almost full on your smartphone?  So, you start deleting photos or apps to free up space to take more photos.  Don’t do that!  Unless of course they were terrible photos to begin with.  By having a cloud account, you can sync your photos with “the Cloud”, freeing up space.

backupBackup, backup, backup.  Did I say backup?  What if your laptop was stolen, your computer crashed, or something awful happened to your smart phone?  These things happen to the best of us and those devices can be replaced.  But what can’t easily be replaced is the data or photos stored on those devices.  “the Cloud” allows us to store our data separately from our devices safeguarding those precious photos, videos, and documents from unexpected mishaps and accessing them from other connected devices.

Is using “the Cloud” safe?

This is the million dollar question.  Is anything truly safe?  There are a combination of things that we can do to help ensure that whatever service we choose is safe; or at least minimize the chances for failure.

  • Use strong passwords, and change them.  While it’s recommended to change your passwords every 90 days; some individuals never change their passwords.  So if you use a cloud service whose vulnerable to attacks and your password is weak; it just makes the hackers (like a thief trying to break into your house) job that much easier to access.
  • Research and read the Terms of Service and Privacy Notifications.  I know those are boring, but you’ll be glad you did, before you start sharing photos or uploading other files to “the Cloud”.

Most cloud service companies actually have great security, but no one is perfect.  Computers are created by humans, and humans aren’t perfect.

A few things to Consider

A few other things to consider when choosing a cloud service; what happens if you’re unable to access the Internet?  There is a strong chance of this happening.  We could be out of range, electricity down, or worse, a catastrophe like a flood has occurred.  There are devices that are being tested to help minimize this, but we’re not there yet.

Also, how long has the cloud service company been in business?  There are a lot of new companies wanting your business and state they’ll be around for a very long time.  But companies change direction, or sell off a product.  And not one service fits us all.  What is best for us, may not be the best for your next-door-neighbor.

While “the Cloud” does offer a lot of benefits, I do not want to put all of my eggs in one basket.  Cloud services are not immune from data loss or disasters. You should consider them as just another potential way of storing data. Cloud services are a good place to back up your data though, as (by definition) they are offsite.  For backup purposes or syncing your photos or videos, you should consider using the 3-2-1 Backup Method.

Next time, I’ll discuss more about “the Cloud” and the differences between the “public Cloud” vs “private Cloud”.

Want to learn more about “the Cloud”, syncing your photos or backup up?  Please feel free to contact me to schedule some time.

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