What isn't white, fluffy, or in the sky, and holds all of your information so you can access it from all of your computers?
Why, the Cloud, of course!
Sounds like nonsense, doesn't it?
The Cloud has been around for several years, but only recently has it gotten much (if any) attention from the general masses. But what is it - really - and why is it even remotely useful?
Sometimes, pictures are the best form of explanation*:
To start, think of the cloud as a magic storage space, accessible by multiple computers via the Internet. It doesn't matter what operating system you use - as long as you have access to the Internet, you have access to the Cloud (and thus, your magic storage space).
This magic storage space is located in some boring, windowless server farm, likely many hundreds of miles away.
This space is only available to you (and anyone you choose to share it with), sometimes at a price. If you have an option of storage amounts, you will generally pay a higher price for a larger amount of space.
That way, you can access a variety of files (which you have to choose to share) from any type of computer, including desktops, laptops, tablets, etc.
Say you have music that you want to share across multiple devices. You can put your music on the Cloud.
Maybe you have an article that you're working on. Perhaps you like to brainstorm on your iPad but edit on your desktop. You can keep all your edits in one place - on the Cloud.
An even bigger plus - you can think of the Cloud as an automatic backup. It's not the perfect backup (I would still recommend having a more physical backup drive next to you), but it can certainly help when disaster strikes your term paper.
Finally, the Cloud is extremely useful for sharing files - particularly large ones - with other people. Email can only handle files up to a certain size. And then you're also stuck with a lot of individual copies of the same file all over the place. With the Cloud, you can have a single copy of a file (i.e. a film your team is working on) that everyone can view/edit on their computers, without bringing email into the picture.
Now that the Cloud has gotten bigger, there are a lot of options for Cloud services. How do you know which one to choose? We'll tackle that next week, with a breakdown of the most common services, their costs, and the pros and cons of each.
Until then - what questions do you have about the Cloud? What concerns do you have? Leave a message in the comments!
*I do not pretend to be a professional artist; that's all I have to say about that.