When people hear the term “the cloud” in reference to personal and professional computing, the image that is most commonly called to mind is a service from Apple called iCloud. iCloud acts as a personalized storage server that makes a users data available instantly on all devices. If you download a file on your MacBook and upload it to the iCloud account, for example, you can instantly access that file on your iPad. Instead of storing the file locally on the device’s hard drive, it is stored online to allow for quick and easy access regardless of location.
Though iCloud is a specific service provided by Apple, the larger concept of “the cloud” essentially operates in the exact same way on a much larger scale. The term “the cloud” is used to describe software or services that run on the Internet instead of locally on a computer’s hard disk drive. As a result, those files suddenly become available on any device on the planet – so long as an Internet connection is present.
Even as recently as five years ago, file sharing of all types required the physical transfer of files from one device to another. If you wanted to take an important file from home to work, you would have to transfer it twice – once to a portable flash drive while at home and again to your work computer when you arrived at the office. Thanks to the cloud, the mere act of saving that file to a cloud-based storage service makes it available to those devices simultaneously – no file transfer is required at all.
Benefits of the Cloud
The major benefits of the cloud come from the way these services are delivered. IT services of all types are now consumable on an “on demand” basis. The cloud itself is also inherently scalable – it can increase or decrease as needed depending on the specifics of the situation a user finds themselves in. Because many cloud-based services operate on a “pay by use” business model, you are no longer locked into the physical limitations of hard disk drive storage. If you have a 100 gigabyte hard drive and suddenly need more storage, you need to go out and purchase a larger device – even if you only need a small amount of additional space.
With a cloud-based storage service, you pay for exactly what you use. If you suddenly need less space, you can downgrade your storage capabilities as a result.