The latest buzzword in the Internet community is the “cloud”.  Microsoft used it extensively in its advertising for Windows 7 and Apple just announced “iCloud” for music and movies.

So what is the cloud and how does it apply to the average lifestyle?

Simply put, the cloud refers to data that is stored on the web instead of on a particular hard drive.  That data is then accessible by its owner anytime and anywhere that there is an Internet connection.  The difference between the cloud and an online backup service is that the cloud is meant to be accessed regularly whereas online backup is normally just an archive meant to be used in the case of data loss.

Right now, many people still primarily share files as an attachment to an email. Files sent as attachments may face a variety of challenges. The first is that the low data limits of most email hosts mean that many files may be too large to send. Secondly, software that differs from computer to computer makes compatibility issues a constant problem when collaborating, especially if one user has a Mac and the other a PC. Finally, when a file is going though revisions, emails can leave several different versions accessible causing confusion.

With the cloud, you can share files without sending attachments. Programs such as Google Docs allow everyone to access one file and work collaboratively without any of these issues.  It’s a great solution for times when a lot of different people are working on the same project such as school assignments or annual family reunion plans.

Keeping images, videos and other files on an online site means you’re likely using the cloud and don’t even know it.  Many families have a private YouTube channel to share videos of grandkids or a Flickr account to keep all the photos from an event in one place.  These are both examples of using the web to store what would be on a personal hard drive otherwise.

If you run a small business, here is a great article about how to use the cloud for your company.

Have additional questions about the cloud?  Let us know in the comments section below!


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