The cloud is a vague tech buzzword term that is being used quite frequently these days. What is this cloud that everyone is using? In its simplest form, the cloud is a computing concept where everything is on the internet. A very basic example of this is webmail.  Do you use GMail or Yahoo? All of your emails are stored on Google or Yahoo’s respective servers, and are available to you anywhere in the world where there is an internet connection.  Dropbox and Google Drive are also good examples of a form of cloud computing, but they also involve syncing of files between your PC, the cloud servers, and anyone else you are sharing your data with.

In some cases, subscriptions to software are done through the cloud. For instance, Adobe recently changed their Creative Suite to be a monthly subscription based cloud service. Previously, you bought the software, and were either mailed DVDs or downloaded the latest version at point of sale.  With the new Adobe Creative Cloud, you pay a monthly fee instead of an upfront cost.  You always will have the latest version of all the software, and can sync files between any device you have, even a phone.

The blog at eTechPlanet gives a great description of the main characteristics of cloud computing:  “The First important thing is that costs are significantly reduced. All infrastructure is in the cloud so the customer has no initial costs (or they are greatly reduced), and the maintenance costs are reduced because the cloud computing provider maintains everything. Cloud computing is adaptable to all size of businesses. Portability is another important feature – you can have access to services everywhere. You don’t have to possess any special application; everything you need is web browser based. Cloud computing is scalable, which means that applications adjust quickly with the amount of customer demands in the cloud. Delivering in cloud is fast…(original post here)

A great way of utilizing the cloud for your own personal benefit is to use an online backup service to back up your home desktop or laptop. I’ve seen too many people bring in their machines for service that have had an OS crash or a hard drive failure tell me the only place they had their pictures or documents was on that sole computer. This is a dangerous game to play with priceless data such as photos of your kids or business documents. I’ve personally used BackBlaze and Crash Plan, two services that will run you about 5$ a month. They both run silently in the background, and back up all your data on your computer (both are unlimited in the amount of harddrive space that can be backed up) to their offsite servers. Don’t play Russian roulette with your important files… get a secure cloud back up and save both of us the trouble when your computer goes down (and it will, they all do).