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Getting Your Head Around The Cloud

One of the realities of modern life is that technology is always changing. Some changes don’t come in the form of a gadget, but more of a concept, which then gets tied to a product or service.

“Cloud computing” is the latest popular technology that might be worth knowing about even if you decide not to use it.

Cloud computing simply means that your computer files are not on your computer. They’re not even anywhere in your home or office, but on a large commercial data storage server somewhere “out in a cloud.”

Storing your files on a cloud makes it easier to get to them from a variety of devices—a smart phone, a computer, or electronic tablet connected to the Internet. The cloud also provides a kind of emergency storage for your electronic photos, music, and documents. If your computer crashes, the files will still exist on the cloud.

The cloud is created by companies that operate networks and hardware connected to the Internet, allowing consumers access via Web browsers or appsmto a whole range of applications and services. One example would be gmail, the popular Web-based e-mail program, which users can access through any device connected to the Internet.

Remote computing requires an Internet connection
Along with the advantages—among them efficiency and convenience–cloud computing can offer challenges as well. Some have raised privacy concerns, about who potentially could see private information stored on cloud-based services, or what might happen should hackers invade a server. Consumers might want to make sure vital documents are also backed up outside the cloud, in case something goes wrong or for one of those maddening days when, out of the blue, Internet access is suddenly kaput.

The conveniences of the cloud
So why access the cloud? Cloud computing has become an efficient way to store and access all kinds of data and applications (sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee). Cloud services allow you to access files from more than one computer–so you can call up a work report on your home computer, for example, or collaborate virtually with colleagues by sharing access to a document. Some people use cloud services as sort of a virtual filing cabinet and organizational system; as an e-mail provider; to back up their computer data; to manage their finances; and to store their libraries of music and photographs. Having access to the cloud also gives a small device, such as a smart phone, the ability to do much more without needing tons of storage.

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