What is the Cloud?

We have all seen the TV commercials boasting about the speed and reliability of the cloud, but what s it really? Essentially, the cloud is nothing more than an abstract idea for hosting files on the Internet. Put another way, it is the idea of accessing something on the Internet rather than a physical object. A good example of this is file sharing programs like Dropbox, Google Drive, or iCloud. Instead of physically moving files over like you would do with a flash drive you can have the same effect but over the Internet. Think of it as a digital locker where you can put your photos and emails and via them from any computer with an Internet connection.

Is it all just Marketing Hype?

Yes and no. We have been doing this process of eliminating physical hardware and replacing it with a web interface for many years now; only recently have marketing organizations began promoting this new buzzword. In the past, a very similar idea called cloud Computing was making the rounds. Eventually this term turned into "the Cloud." As it stands now the term mostly just means that your computer comes with software that will let you store files on the Internet.

How Does it all Work?

It is a very simple idea -- instead of storing data files and other information on your computer, you place it on a server located somewhere else in the world. Email is a more primitive example of this concept; you can check your email from any computer in the world without having to worry about if the emails are stored on your personal hard drive or not. This same concept can be applied to just about everything digital, from computer backups to movies and music. All this connectivity does come at a cost. Streaming videos and downloading files can slow your network down if you don't have adequate bandwidth to transfer the files. Storage space on the cloud costs real money though.

Is it Worth it?

For most people, having a way to backup files and host things on the Internet is quite advantageous. The Cloud can be used to backup files or as a way to simply share them with friends and family. There are a lot of free cloud services out there that will offer you a few free gigabytes of storage that let you try before you buy a larger amount of storage. Students can also benefit a lot from this service; you can upload your papers and homework and then have access to them anywhere. This works as a great way to back your work up too.

With cloud computing only becoming more and more popular, we don't expect this idea to go away any time soon. The Cloud is a powerful tool that lets you do a lot of things but only once we see past the marketing hype we can get a better understanding of the cloud's strengths and weaknesses.