Tech Academy: The Cloud

“The cloud” is a term that is thrown around a lot in modern technology and business conversations. From storage, to software, to backups, many different services promote the fact that they are cloud-based. But just what is the cloud? And why is it a good thing? Or is it? In today’s Tech Academy, we’ll take a look at this technology that is changing the way the world does business.

What is the cloud?

Until recently, you really only had two ways to save things on your computer. You either had to put it on your hard drive or you needed to buy some sort of external disk (floppy disk, USB, external hard drive, etc.). The cloud refers to the ability to store that same information on the Internet. This could mean a draft of a Microsoft Word document, your current level in a game, or the place you paused in a television show.

Why would I want to store information in the cloud?

There are several distinct advantages to storing information in the cloud. The first is that you can access your work from a variety of devices. Say you’re a busy exec that is always on the move. You are working on a time sensitive document for your board members. You can start the document on your desktop computer, continue working on the same document from your tablet in-between meetings, and then finish it on your laptop at home. The cloud will give you access to your most recent work no matter where you are. This also goes for that game or that television show. You can start a show on home computer and pick up your place on your smartphone during your lunch break. The second big advantage is that the cloud provides a reliable backup for your work. Even if your hard drive were to crash or your building were to catch on fire, all of your information would still be accessible. Since your data is not stored in a physical location, it is protected from many different disasters.

Why is it called the cloud?

The cloud gets its name from the early days of the Internet. When programmers and companies were trying to explain the network of servers that created the Internet's infrastructure, they often used a diagram of the clouds. Clouds were seen as a metaphor for the information that floated over these unseen connections.

What are some examples of the cloud?

Many of the programs and software that you use every day are based in the cloud. These include your email programs (Gmail, Yahoo Mail, etc.), your storage programs (Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, iCloud), your note taking programs (Evernote), your social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and your media programs (iTunes, Netflix, etc.).

Is it safe to store my information in the cloud?

Just like with any program, it is important that you are smart about putting your information in the cloud. As we see in the news, hackers love to try and infiltrate different cloud systems. Everything from customer credit card information to personal photos have been stolen, sold, and shared. Always make sure that when using the cloud, you have a strong level of security in place. This includes encryption software, passwords, and virus protection. Check back next week to learn more about the different types of cloud services!