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You’ve heard about the Cloud and how it makes storing and accessing digital content easier. But how does it do this, and what exactly is it?

The Concept of the Cloud

"The cloud" is a term that covers a broad collection of on-demand, online services. Cloud computing gives users access to their files, programs, and media through a network, as opposed to the traditional method of storing all of it on individual devices.

The actual content in the cloud is stored in remote data centers and accessed through an app or website on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, TV, or any other internet-connected device. Different cloud services support different needs. Whether you’re backing up documents, listening to music, or downloading games, the cloud can add convenience to just about any task

Cloud computing has probably already seeped into your daily routine. When you open your email or edit a document through a web browser, you’re interacting with it in the cloud.

Essentials of The Cloud

There are three major areas where you can benefit most from the cloud: storage, entertainment, and software.

Storage

With cloud storage, you pay a recurring fee for a set amount of online storage. The cost is primarily based on the amount of storage you need, and there are plans to meet every budget. The cost of cloud storage is dropping rapidly as competition increases, far outpacing physical hard drives. In fact, almost all cloud storage providers offer a free base membership with an adequate amount of storage for basic needs.

The major advantage cloud storage has over hard drives, though, is convenience. There are no power cords, USB connections, or bulky boxes to lug around. And most of all, everything you have stored in the cloud is easily accessed from any internet-connected device. Just log in through an app or website, and it’s all there waiting for you.

Entertainment

Every type of content you consume -- from music to movies, and TV shows to books – can be found in the cloud. You can stream movies and TV shows through services like Hulu and Netflix instead of purchasing DVDs or Blu-ray discs. You can also rent digital content through on-demand services or purchase and permanently store it with services like Amazon.com and Flixster.

With services offered by Rhapsody, Spotify, and iTunes, you can stream almost any song through your smartphone or computer with a monthly membership to a music library, or access your personal library across any synced device. By syncing up your devices with a cloud library, the same music is always available on any device you designate, whether or not you’re online.

Software

Cloud software eliminates discs, opting for a download instead. It charges either a one-time fee or a recurring fee that allows you to keep using the software until your license expires. Selling programs as a monthly or yearly membership is referred to as “Software as a Service,” or “SaaS.”

Odds are, you’re probably already using Software as a Service. It’s akin to purchasing an online game or app for your smartphone. It came from the cloud and it operates through the cloud to allow you to interact with other players. Some programs need to stay connected during use, while others only need to connect on occasion for upgrades and maintenance.


Getting the Most of the Cloud

The cloud simplifies the process of storing, accessing, and maintaining your data and media.
Here are a few ways you can use the cloud to make your life easier:

Sync your data across multiple devices.

This will keep your data accessible and up-to-date on any device you choose. Plus, having your data stored in the cloud and on multiple devices reduces the need to make backups, and reduces the risk of permanently losing your files.

Use the cloud to secure your sensitive files.

Cloud data can be encrypted and is always password protected. It resides on secure, off-site servers that provide a backup in the event that your hardware falls victim to malware, theft, or natural disaster.

Share files easily via links.

With cloud storage, you can email a link that opens to any file you want to share. Some services, like Google Drive, even allow you to collaborate on projects with people anywhere in the world, with each participant editing the same document in real time.

Build queues of shows and movies

you’d like to watch so you’ll never run out of great programming. And don’t forget, you can enjoy it whenever and wherever you please.

Get music recommendations

through your music player. Check out what your friends are listening to with social media integration and take advantage of “suggested content” to find new tunes.


Why the Cloud Makes Sense

Shifting to the cloud can be a big change, especially if you embrace all of these aspects at once. But the cloud relieves anxiety by reducing the risk of losing your data. It gives you faster and easier access to your media, eliminating the need to hook up a hard drive or insert a disk. In response to the popularity of cloud services and demand for more portable devices, many laptop manufacturers have reduced internal storage and eliminated optical drives altogether.

With your data in the cloud, you don’t have to worry about platform compatibility, and since cloud services feed to your device from the web, the latest patches, updates and upgrades are almost always integrated automatically. Whether Apple or PC, tablet or smartphone, desktop or laptop, all of your content is accessible.

The cloud reduces waste and hassle, and streamlines your daily routine. Cloud providers integrate new capabilities and upgrade their products competitively. While hardware goes out-of-date and degrades over time, cloud services actively adapt to your needs.