By now, most users of today’s digital technology have heard of “the cloud” or “cloud computing” and many might even be unknowingly using it regularly, perhaps even on a daily basis. But large numbers of everyday consumers still might not fully understand just what the cloud is.
Basically, “the cloud” and “cloud computing” refer to storing computer files and programs on external servers (usually located far away) rather than locally on a device’s hard drive, then remotely accessing the files/programs via an internet or cellular connection. In this sense, “the cloud” serves as a metaphor for the global network of computer servers that actually house the files and programs, and the internet and cellular networks make it possible to easily access them from a remote distance.
What are the advantages of the cloud?
For everyday consumers, there are two main advantages to using the cloud:
- Space savings: Using the cloud can save a lot of storage space on devices. With the help of the cloud, users can, for example, store and/or access virtual libraries of music, videos, photos, etc. without ever filling up their device’s hard drive. It also allows users to keep shooting videos, taking photos, etc., without having to worry about running out of space for storing them on their devices.
- Accessibility from (almost) anywhere: Use of the cloud also makes the files/programs stored there available to users from anywhere they have an internet or cellular connection and on any connected device. Users don’t have to worry about, for example, not having that great photo of the kids available to show to friends and relatives because it’s stored on a different device at home. When it’s stored in the cloud, it can be accessed and viewed from anywhere with an internet or cellular connection.
In the business world, this allows for important documents to be shared with coworkers and clients — even ones located halfway around the world — via the cloud. And because the files are available from pretty much anywhere, it enables workers to collaborate digitally from far-flung locations, too.
What kinds of services use the cloud?
Many everyday consumers are already using the cloud — they just might not be aware of it. Among the most popular and widely used examples of digital services that use cloud technology are the following:
- File hosting and storage: File-hosting, storage and synchronization services like Google Drive, Apple iCloud and Dropbox allow users to store their documents, photos, music and a range of other types of files on remote servers, then access them locally via their connected devices and virtually share them with other users when desired.
- Social media: Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram use cloud computing to let users upload photos, videos, music files etc. to remote servers for the purpose of sharing with friends, family and other connections via the social platform.
- Email: Email services such as Yahoo! Mail and Gmail use the cloud to store email messages and their attachments on remote servers, allowing account holders to view and download past email correspondence and attached files via the web and the services’ associated apps.
- Video streaming: Video-streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu allow subscribers to access remotely-stored movies, television shows, etc. via the cloud for viewing on their local devices.
- Music streaming: Music-streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music give users access to vast libraries of music files that are stored on remote servers and can be played on local devices via the internet or a cellular connection.
Of course, to use the cloud effectively, consumers need a fast and reliable internet and/or cellular connection, like the ones provided in our area by FTC Internet and FTC Wireless. To learn more about FTC’s rates and packages — and to start using the cloud to its highest potential — visit ftc.net.