What is the cloud? “The cloud” refers to computer servers that are accessible over the internet. “Cloud services” are typically web or desktop applications that store data on another server that the application accesses remotely with an internet connection, instead of storing the data locally on the machine that the application is running on.
What is the cloud? Let’s dig in further
The term “cloud” when referring to computer programs, mobile applications, and web applications has become a very popular buzzword these days. At this point providing a “cloud based solution” is just as much a trend as it is a true advancement in technology. That is not to say that cloud based services are not advancements, because they certainly are. However, you could say that providing a cloud service is also the cool “thing” these days. Because it is such a buzzword and catchy phrase at this point, it almost seems mystical in nature. Like the cloud is something magical and ethereal. Your data goes up into this mysterious “cloud” place, and is now suddenly accessible everywhere or saved indefinitely.
In reality, this is a concept that has been used for a long time. Basically, a cloud service takes the data that is being used by the application itself and sends all of that data through the internet to another physical server(or servers) and stores the data there. This can be as simple as backing up your data to complex computing, and everything in between. The reason that this is such a big deal now is because it allows applications to provide a whole new level of service because the application is no longer limited by the users hardware or software environment.
A great example of this would be a cloud based file storage service, such as Dropbox or Google Drive. Both of these services allow us to access our files from any machine in the world with our username and password. They also allow us to share our files and collaborate with others all around the world. Traditionally, if we wanted to access our files from any machine we would have to set up our own server in our basements, know how to configure it for what we needed, and have a constant internet connection to that server so that we could always get to our files. This is an incredible amount of work to get set up. That’s why these cloud based services are so impressive, because they can offer this on a mass scale.
How does the cloud actually work?
Basically, a cloud service provider runs their own server, server farm(if they are big enough), or rents server space from a service such as Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud. They can then run their application, store data, and much more on their own infrastructure so that your machine doesn’t have to. So basically, the cloud is essentially just offload the work onto a different computer, or multiple computers, that are set up to handle that work load. The result is then sent to you over the internet.
The cloud is in fact different for every service that touts itself as a “cloud service”. It is a physical thing, but since all of the heavy lifting is done by the provider of the service, it appears as if it is a phenomenon. This is actually the beauty of the system.
I hope that this has helped to answer the question, “what is the cloud?”, and has provided insight. I find that this is a commonly asked question, and for good reason. This is not explained by products that advertise their cloud solutions.