I often get asked “What, exactly, is the cloud?”

I, being of a geek mind, go into my best Obi-Wan Kenobi or Yoda impression and begin to respond:

“Well, the Cloud is what gives a connected user their power. It’s a binary field created by interlinked data centers.  It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the Internet together.”

[I take full credit for that mash-up of tech and Star Wars. Ed]

I get the SMH look and then go into a real explanation.  So…what is it exactly?  Let’s use a metaphor to explain it since “exactly” is the eye of the “explainer”.

Let’s pretend you’re a teacher and you have an assignment sheet that needs to be kept by your students for the upcoming school session.  In an “Old School” approach, you would make enough copies (dare I say – mimeograph?) to give one to each of your students.  You would keep one in a folder on your desk in your classroom.  One morning you arrive at school, sit at your desk and your folder is missing.  Knowing your students are in the cafeteria having breakfast, you head over to the lunchroom.  Finding the first student you see, you ask for their copy and make another copy for yourself.  Problem solved.  This illustrates the distributive nature of the Cloud – there is a copy “out there” available for you if you lose yours.

There are three dimensions to explain the Cloud as a basic concept.  First, the Cloud allows you to save digital information across many computer systems in data centers all over the country (and world).  You no longer save this information to your personal desktop or laptop computer where it can be lost if your systems “dies”.  You can access this information anywhere you have Internet access and the program, utility or app to consume the information.  The “computer systems” do not belong to a person but rather to large data companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Google and many others.  They are like huge hard drives and everyone’s data is there. [this will be a blog unto itself. -Ed]

The second dimension is collaboration.  The Cloud can allow for multiple people to work on the same data from various locations (and some cases – at the same time).  This is not a new concept and has really been an underlying benefit of networked computers since the old days (circa 1970s thru the 90s).

The third dimension is consumption.  The consumption of the Cloud (and many marketing approaches) is the ease of access.  You don’t have to have a bunch of tech guys, like me, and many expensive computers to post to Facebook or Instagram or build a web page.  Access to the Cloud is on any Internet-enabled device.  Creating Word documents or Google Docs and saving them to your OneDrive or Google Drive is using the Cloud.  Backing up your phone to your iCloud is using the Cloud.  Consumption and adoption of the cloud is being accomplished because cost and technical expertise are not a barrier anymore.

You see?  The Cloud IS all around us!  It’s that simple.  Time for me to polish my lightsaber…Cheers!

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