What is The Cloud?: A Very Basic Explanation

Cloud computing is the new movement in the technology world. Today, we see references to “the cloud” everywhere online, but rarely does anyone attempt to give an explanation for what that means in practical terms. We aim to clear up some of the fog surrounding this nebulous concept.

Whenever I hear someone mention “cloud computing,” I think of the atomic model we learned about back in junior high, the “electron cloud” model. It was a theoretical model of the structure of an atom, with a nucleus at the center and a much larger cloud outside of the electron that, just like when we talk about computers, wasn’t really a cloud. It was just a way to represent that the electrons circling the center of the atom could be anywhere, at any time. In cloud computing, the same is true with your apps and data. You can think of them as always being there, and no matter where you are, you can always just reach out and grab them, use them, and put them back for safekeeping.

Now that I’m done overcomplicating it, let’s get down to chrome tacks. The basis of cloud computing is rather simple. Rather than storing applications and data on each individual computer, it is stored on a virtual server and is available when needed. For example, instead of going to the store, buying a game and installing it from a disc, the game is stored online and you can just open it and play whenever you want.

As an analogy, consider public utilities such as electricity and water. Imagine if every household with a computer had to handle the burden of installing and maintaining its own individual miniature generator plant and water pump. Over a century ago, that was the way things were. As technology advanced, standardized, centralized utilities made it so people could focus on other things besides keeping the generator and water pump working. All of the investments, development, and maintenance involved in doing so was finally alleviated, and today we hardly ever think about where the utilities come from — they’ve been there on-demand for such a long time.

Cloud computing works the same way. With Google’s Chrome OS, centralized (well, not exactly, but it aids the explanation) servers handle most of the tasks that we and our computers have to worry about now — everything from storing individual user settings, to processing, to keeping back-ups of data.

Because a Chrome notebook stores all its information in “the cloud,” any Chromebook you sign into immediately transforms into your computer, with your settings, apps, and so on. Once you sign out, it transforms back. So, if you lose your Chromebook, all your data is perfectly safe, and you can simply get another and pick up exactly where you left off.

An important security benefit of everything being on the cloud is that, if your Chromebook were ever stolen, a thief would have no access to any of your data.

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About Jake T.

Blogger. Chromebook Reviewer. Chrome-magnum. Then I say something.