Anyone that’s at all aware of technology will have probably heard a great deal about the cloud over the past year or so, with the media and many technology organizations proclaiming that we’ll all soon be moving into the cloud. But despite all of this coverage, many people are confused about what the cloud actually is, and have no idea of how it could be of benefit to them. This uncertainty can mean that there are barriers preventing individuals and businesses utilizing the cloud. However, most regular Internet users will already be using the cloud, so knowing how you are already using the cloud could break down these barriers and encourage its use within the business sector.
If you use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, you are using the cloud every time you post a status or write a tweet. The cloud allows these social networking services to reach millions of users worldwide while always remaining available and reliable. Photo sharing services like Flickr and Instagram are also based in the cloud, and it is the cloud that allows your friends to view your images and allows you to back up and store images.
Data from social networking sites may be stored in the cloud, but so many other things can be too. There is a wide range of storage options available and more are appearing all the time; there are many free ones available but also some more advanced pay-for versions offering you much more storage space. Dropbox, MediaFire and Google Drive are such programmes with which you may be familiar. They allow you to save files that you can then access from any device, anywhere in the world. Think of them like a memory stick which you don’t have to carry around with you, which you can’t lose or misplace, and with more storage space. You can also use the cloud to save data that it taking up too much space on your hard drive.
If you use the Internet to watch on-demand television or films, you are using the cloud without realizing it. iPlayer, 4oD, Netflix and similar services all use the cloud to bring their services to a wide audience. Equivalent music and radio stations like Spotify and Pandora work in a similar way, as the cloud allows these sites to save large amounts of data that can be accessed by a massive user-base.
The Internet has completely transformed how we share things with others and work together. Now, we can share a range of documents, from reports to presentations, with friends, family and notably, colleagues, with just the click of a button. If you’ve ever used document sharing services (Google Docs is the primary example) or file hosting services (SkyDrive being the best known) then you’ve used the cloud. This use of the cloud means that you can allow other users to not only view your documents, but also edit them. The cloud, then, essentially facilitates teamwork. And who said technology makes the world impersonal?
The majority of people are using the cloud without realizing it through communication. This is because every time you send an email you are probably using the cloud. Major email services (including Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo) use the cloud to store your email and contacts. It is this that allows you to log in and access your email on any machine anywhere; otherwise you would be limited to your own computer. Skype and other video-chat programmes also use the cloud to connect millions of users worldwide.