Cloud computing is wildly popular at the enterprise level, where IT managers are focused on maintaining stable systems that are used by hundreds or thousands of employees. Most consumers encounter the cloud on an individual basis, however, with cloud storage. Where are your photos and files? They’re in the cloud. But wait, what’s the cloud? It is not a giant hard drive in the sky.
When you store something “in the cloud,” you’re actually storing it in a very physical space. That file slides across the wire and then lives on a physical server (usually more than one) in some far flung place. And depending on which cloud storage service you use, that file is now in the possession of a giant corporation to whom you probably pay a monthly fee. Anybody who’s ever used Dropbox knows that this makes it incredibly convenient to access files or to share files from any computer with an internet connection.
In the past, you just bought a computer with a hard drive inside and stored your files there. Now, you pay a company like Apple or Google to store the file remotely and provide you with access when you ask for it.
In short, if your data lives “in the cloud,” it actually lives on a company’s server, and you more or less pay a membership fee to work in and access that company’s server. Depending on that company’s terms of service, you may or may not actually own or control that data once it lives in cloud storage. This raises a few glaring concerns in terms of security and privacy, so it’s vitally important to read the terms and conditions and ensure your files still belong to you once they are “in the cloud”.