top of page
  • Writer's pictureTara Grey

What Exactly is “The Cloud?”

Everyone talks about “The Cloud” and how it’s the new generation of how technology works, but what exactly does it mean when something is “in the cloud?”

It sounds like files are beamed up to some ethereal place where they stay until we need them. But, actually the Cloud is more of a delivery system that uses the internet to give you access to files and applications and other computer services.

One way to think of the cloud is to compare it to how electricity is delivered.

  • Non-cloud method: You generate electricity yourself using a solar panel to power a single outlet in your home.

  • Cloud method: You pay monthly for electricity from your power company and that electricity is delivered to everywhere in your home where you need it.

In this scenario the “electricity” would be your files (videos, documents, computers) and could also be software (like Microsoft Word).

You can store files and software on your computer hard drive, meaning they are then only available to you when you’re on that computer. You can’t get to them on another computer or from your iPad.

If you use a cloud service for files like iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive, they aren’t stored on your computer, but instead are stored somewhere else, “in the cloud,” and that allows you to access them from your computer, your friend’s computer, your iPad, or your Mobile phone. Basically, any internet connected device.

Where Do My Files Go When They’re in “The Cloud?”

When you use a cloud file storage service like iCloud or Dropbox, those files are being stored on computer servers that are owned by the service provider.

Think of servers as really large computer hard drives. They can store a LOT of information and make it available to people over the internet.

So, let’s go through a typical process of where your file is when it’s in the Cloud.

  • You take a photo with your iPhone and save it to iCloud.

  • Apple (the iCloud service provider) stores that file on one of its servers

  • These servers are typically located in large data centers of many servers and can be anywhere in the world.

  • The file is saved under your account only, meaning other iCloud users can’t access it.

  • When you sign into your iCloud account on any device, AND are connected to the internet, you’ll see your file (which is sitting on Apple’s server) and can access it (download, copy, etc.)

What Happens If the Server is Damaged?

One reason people like the Cloud is that it acts as a backup for their pictures, videos, and other files in case of computer crash or lost mobile phone.

But if files are sitting on a physical server, what happens if that server is damaged?

Cloud service providers put redundancy in place, which just means that they back up everything on their servers to other servers located in different places to help ensure they don’t lose the data of their customers.

Do You Need the Internet to Use the Cloud?

Yes, the basis of the Cloud is that you’re using your internet connection to get to those files being hosted on servers owned by the cloud service provider.

But I Can Still See My Files on My Computer/Phone When I’m Not Connected

How services like Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, and iCloud work, is to copy files from your physical device – the files you give them permission to copy.

They then use a syncing method to keep the latest copy of that file stored for you.

For example, say you’re creating a family cookbook in Microsoft Word and you save that file to OneDrive cloud storage as you’re working on it. When you make a change on your computer to the file to add another recipe, the version on OneDrive is syncing with your computer to grab the update – IF you’re connected to the internet.

The file can still reside on your personal computer, and THAT version will be available even if you’re offline. But the cloud version stored in OneDrive will only be available if you have an internet connection.

This is why you sometimes won’t see photos showing up right away in your cloud storage account. Because if you take a photo with your phone while outside, it might have to wait until you get a good internet connection to sync and upload to the cloud storage server.

Are My Files Safe in the Cloud?

For the most part, when you use a well-known cloud provider (Microsoft, Apple, Google, Dropbox, etc.), they are taking steps to protect the data stored on their cloud servers from loss or being hacked.

Their data centers include extensive IT security standards and physical security. But cloud files can still be lost or compromised.

One common way they’re lost is due to syncing problems or user error. I’ll give you one of the most common examples:

A person purchases a new iPhone and trades in their old one to get a credit. They don’t sign out of their iCloud account on the old phone before it gets reset (deleting everything on it). This can cause all those files to also be deleted from their iCloud account because its synced with the phone.

Get More Out of Your Cloud Applications!

Many people that use cloud storage and pay for cloud applications aren’t taking advantage of all the features because they simply don’t know about them. Read my earlier post about "The Cloud" here.

Schedule a custom tutoring session today on your favorite cloud app! Call or text me at: 862-368-4893 or Email me here.


References linked to:



bottom of page