What is The Cloud and can I trust it with my data?
I keep reading about cloud-based this, cloud-based that, different services for backups, copies of my digital photos, and even document storage so I can work on my spreadsheets from anywhere in the world. Sounds great, but I don't really understand what The Cloud actually *is* and whether it's safe and secure?
It's interesting to be an old timer in the Internet space, because I've watched the cycle go back and forth between local and network storage. Decades ago, I can remember using mainframes and dumb terminals, where everything was stored in a central system. Then PCs made it economic for files to be stored locally, freeing us up from the need to be connected. Then "headless PCs" almost caught on, where the local device had the smarts to run demanding applications but the programs themselves, and all your data, was still stored in a central location.
For the last few years, we've definitely been moving more towards having everything on our computers again, with 500GB and larger drives now common for even a lowly laptop. That's a lot of data.
The problem is that it's also a lot to lose. I know from experience when my daughter's laptop crashed a month or so ago and she lost a month's worth of photos, email, and school work. We had backups, but, really, who does that on a perfect schedule?
The real value of these systems? Multiple systems can automatically, magically stay in sync so if you take a photo on your iPhone, say, it appears on your iPad without you even having to click a button or take any action, or a document you're editing on your laptop is accessible from your desktop system, without you having to copy or transfer it manually.
The "cloud" idea is related to old whiteboard illustrations of how the Internet works, where your computer would be on one side of a big cloud, a server that actually houses the Web content you seek is on the other side, and the cloud itself is labeled "The Internet" in portentous lettering. We can tweak it slightly to show all the devices, but the concept's the same:
Is it safe? Given the amount of data that's already winging its way into that mysterious tech cloud, it might be too late to ask that question, but I think the privacy of your cloud data is more dependent on the individual companies than the Internet itself. I trust Apple with its iCloud service and Google with Google Docs (and Google Plus), personally. My advice: closely read their Terms of Service before you start using the service.
But that cloud is here to stay. Until we go through the cycle another time and decide that those petabyte crystal-based storage chips mean the cloud can be neatly tucked into our tablets.
Image from OpenText Corporation.
More Useful Computer and Internet Basics Articles:
✔ How do I blur my house on Google Maps Street View?
I was poking around on Google Maps looking at satellite views of my neighborhood and when I switched to street view, was upset...✔ Create a custom vanity URL for Kickstarter?
I was reading some updates on Twitter and saw someone had posted a URL that would let me see what projects they'd backed...✔ Export or Save Subscription List from Google Reader?
Just heard that Google Reader is going away this summer. That stinks! How am I supposed to read my RSS feeds? More importantly,...✔ Shrink or Reduce a Photo File Size on Mac?
I'm trying to upload some photos to a social media site and it's complaining that they're too big. They are, as they come...✔ Can I organize my Yahoo Mail with folders?
I've been on Yahoo Mail for years and while most of my friends are now on Gmail or their own Web-based email programs,...
Let's stay in touch!
Sign up for my weekly AskDaveTaylor Newsletter and you'll receive even more tech and gadget help right to your inbox, along with exclusive news and industry updates. It's good stuff. I promise!
I do have a comment, now that you mention it!
Check This Out Too...
Look for Answers
All Our Categories
Apple iPad Help
Articles and Reviews
Auctions and Online Shopping
Blogs and Blogging
Building Web Site Traffic
Business and Management
Computer and Internet Basics
d) None of the Above
Google Gmail Help
Google Plus Help
Industry News and Trade Shows
iPhone and Cell Phone Help
iPod, Sony PSP and MP3 Player Help
Kindle Fire Help
Mac OS X Help
Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Shell Script Programming
Tech Support Video Help
The Writing Business
Twitter, LinkedIn and Social Network Help
Unix and Linux Help
Video Game Tips and Help
Windows PC Help
Find Me on Google+
ADT on G+