Q. Please help. I still don’t get “the Cloud”. Call me Old School, but I don’t understand what the Cloud is and how I can use it.
I recently had my computer crash and I lost a lot of my photos. Some of them were backed up to a hard drive but not all of them.
A friend told me that I should back up my photos to the Cloud. I nodded, as if I completely understood what she was talking about but I don’t have a clue about the Cloud.
Could you explain to me in plain English what is the Cloud and what I can use it for?
A. Great question, I get this a lot from readers who don’t understand the concept of the Cloud so thanks for asking and inspiring this article!
What Is the Cloud?
The Cloud is basically storage on a computer that you access using the Internet. When you store files such as photos, music, and videos on your home computer you’re not using the Cloud. You are using the Cloud when you store and access files on someone else’s computer via the Internet.
Examples of Using the Cloud
You’re probably using the Cloud already and may not realize it. For example, if you stream movies over Netflix or YouTube, you’re using the Cloud. You’re accessing video files over the Internet that are stored on a computer that’s not in your home.
Email services use the Cloud. To read and send emails you use the Internet and access your account when you sign in from any computer or mobile device.
If you share your photos on Facebook, you’re using the Cloud. You’re putting your photo files on Facebook’s computers and accessing them using the Internet. You’re also using the Cloud when you view your friends’ photos they’ve posted on Facebook.
When you tweet you’re using the Cloud, posting your message on Twitter’s computers that are then accessed by others over the Internet. You’re also using the Cloud when you’re reading others’ tweets.
If you listen to music services such as Spotify or Pandora you’re using the Cloud. You’re accessing music over the Internet listening to music files on someone else’s computer.
If you’re reading this article, and I’m thinking you are, you’re probably using the Cloud. The Wonder of Tech is hosted on a company’s computers and readers access these articles using the Internet. The exception is if you’re a subscriber to The Wonder of Tech on Amazon and are reading this article on your Kindle.
Combination Cloud and Local Storage
Some services offer a combination of Cloud and local storage so you can access files whether or not you’re connected to the Internet. Dropbox lets you store your files in the Cloud on their computers and keep them locally on your computer, syncing the Cloud and local files so they match.
If you read Kindle books your Kindle library is stored in the Cloud on Amazon’s computers. You’re using the Cloud when you access your Kindle library to download a book to your device. But you aren’t using the Cloud when you read a Kindle book because you don’t need to have access to the Internet — the ebook file is on your device. You can delete a Kindle book from your device and still be able to read it later, even picking up where you left off reading because the book will still be in your library, stored in the Cloud at Amazon.
Cloud Storage Services
Many companies offer Cloud storage services with varying prices, beginning at free. When choosing a Cloud service you should consider your storage needs, prices and accessibility. Popular Cloud storage services are Amazon Cloud, Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive and Google Drive.
Advantages of Using the Cloud
When you use the Cloud, you can access your files from anywhere you’re connected to the Internet. You don’t have to wait to get back to your home computer to get to your photos, documents, etc. Log into your account from another computer or mobile device and you’re set.
You can back up your files to the Cloud so you don’t have to worry about your computer crashing, fire, flood or other disaster wiping out your files. Some Cloud services offer automatic backups of your files.
Sharing your documents, photos and other files is easier when you use the Cloud. Share a photo with others on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter or Dropbox.
You can use the Cloud to transfer files between your devices. If you get a new computer and all of your files are in the Cloud, you’ll have a much easier time transferring your files. If you take a photo on your phone you can use the Cloud to easily get that photo onto your computer.
Less Local Storage Space Needed
If you store your photos, music, videos and other files in the Cloud, you may need less storage on your computer, tablet or phone.
Disadvantages of Using the Cloud
Internet Access Required
Internet access is required to use the Cloud. If you don’t have Internet access you won’t be able to get to the files stored in the Cloud.
Slow Internet speed could be a factor if you’re trying to use Cloud services to stream a video. Large files may take a long time to upload or download over a slow connection.
You should use a strong password for your Cloud services. Hackers could get access to your files if they know your user name and password.
Ideas for Backing Up Photos in the Cloud
Cloud services are very helpful to back up and share photo files. Check out these Wonder of Tech articles about the ways you can use Cloud services for your photos:
This infographic helps explain the Cloud:
Infographic used with permission from SingleHop
Have you ever been confused about the Cloud? Did you realize how many ways you’re using the Cloud? What Cloud services do you use? Share your thoughts about the Cloud in the Comments section below!