What is The Cloud?

"Cloud computing" is a popular term used to refer to the capability of storing computer files or running computer programs on specialized server computers on the Internet. This means that a person doesn't have to keep a file or install a program on their own computer, which would take up processing power and/or memory space.  It also means that the files or programs can be accessed from pretty much any computer that can connect to the Internet, as opposed to a specific one.  This is where the most popular conception of "the cloud" in relation to computers comes from: that computer files or programs stored by server computers on the Internet are floating around freely, like a cloud would.  Any computer (with the right credentials) can come along and access them, and can do so from any server computer within a specific group.

How does "the cloud" work?

"The cloud" works by having several interconnected server computers work together to store computer files or run a computer program that, due to its required processing power and/or size, would be difficult for a single computer to handle on its own.  If it helps, think about it in terms of how a construction crew works: more people working on the job means the building gets built faster, and with less work for each individual member of the crew.  In addition, more workers can be tasked with doing the harder jobs, while easier jobs can be left to fewer workers.

Types of cloud computing

There are several different ways that cloud computing can be used.  One example is online office software that allows multiple people to work on a document at the same time, such as Google Docs.  Another is Heroku, a service that allows people to create their own websites and web programs without having to do much of the code-crunching; it's what we use to bring you Techboomers.com! 

One of the more simple and common uses of cloud computing is to store computer files in a secure place on the Internet, which is known as "cloud storage".

Cloud storage

A popular use of cloud computing is for storing and accessing computer files.  By putting your computer files on server computers in "the cloud", you can free up memory space on your computer's hard drive for other things.  Plus, since your files are now on server computers in "the cloud", they will be safe even if your own computer breaks.  But that's not all!  You can also access your computer files from any other computer that's connected to the Internet, even if it's not your own.  Just find the cloud storage service that you use on the Internet and log into it, and your files will be right there waiting for you!  Common cloud storage services include Dropbox, Box.com, SpiderOak, and TeamDrive.

If you'd like to learn how to use Dropbox for cloud storage, visit our Dropbox Course.

Benefits of cloud computing

Cloud computing has several alleged benefits, including:

  • Speed -- More computers working on the same task means that it gets done faster.

  • Cost & Efficiency -- Several low-cost, average-performance computers working together is less expensive and more efficient than a few high-cost, high-performance computers working alone.

  • Maintenance & Access -- Since a "cloud" program or file is housed entirely on server computers on the Internet, you don't have to install it or keep it on your own computer (thereby taking up its memory space and processing power) in order for the program or file to work.  This also means that you can access a "cloud" program or file from pretty much any Internet-enabled device, and not just a single specific computer.

  • Productivity -- Since a "cloud" program or file is available to multiple users at the same time (as opposed to just a single person based on whether or not they have the program installed -- or the file located -- on their hard drive), teams can more easily collaborate on projects.

  • Reliability -- Since servers share information about the "cloud" programs and files among themselves, the program or file is less likely to experience an interruption, shutdown, or loss if something happens to one or more of the servers.


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