man on computer

The “cloud” or “cloud computing” is the number one techno buzzword of 2021.  Are you using the cloud?  You may well be and not even know it.  Just what is this cloud computing?

The cloud is the delivery of computing services such as applications, servers, databases, or information over the Internet.  It would be difficult for an individual to buy and maintain all the equipment and software necessary to take care of all one’s computing needs.  The cloud assists the personal computer user by eliminating the need for all the infrastructure that would otherwise be required.  The Internet is a network of networks that connects computers across the globe, while the cloud is a newer technology that offers various kinds of resources over the Internet.  Thus, the cloud could be recognized  as a technology that makes use of the Internet as the medium of communication for the delivery of its services.  The cloud cannot operate internationally without the Internet.

An analogy that is frequently used is water.  In the past, people on farms got water from their wells.  Rivers, lakes, and creeks were also sources of water.  City or town dwellers would often have tanks on their roofs or barrels in their yard to collect water.  Nowadays most people simply turn a tap.  Public water utilities collect, treat, and distribute the water, and professionals make sure the water is safe, secure, and available.  You can turn your water supply off and on at the tap, just as you can turn your cloud computing services off and on when needed.  As in the water analogy, professionals    ▶︎ maintain the security and availability of your cloud services.

How often do we even think of all the ways that we use the Internet?  We email, we instant message, we study and learn, we blog, we take and save pictures, we telemedicine, to mention just a few.  One of the lessons we are learning during the pandemic is how disadvantaged families are, if they don’t have good Internet access (not to mention the need for several computers if children are doing distance-learning).  But think how much worse it would be for education and medicine if we did not have the Internet and the cloud at our disposal.  Students would be further behind in their studies, and it would often be impossible for those needing medical care to see a provider in person.

It is difficult to imagine a business today which does not rely upon cloud computing.  For smaller businesses, the cloud eliminates the need for buying routers and servers, and allows for easier and far less expensive storage and delivery of services.  Businesses use the cloud to develop and test software, and they can do this without setting up the physical or hardware aspects of a new platform.  Data analytics, available via the cloud, are used to study consumer behavior, which facilitates advertising and marketing.  The cloud, of course, provides storage, and it allows for data system recovery and data backup.

Individuals use the cloud for many of the same reasons.  We want to back up our documents, financial records, photographs, or video clips.  Depending upon your Internet service, most data will be encrypted when you save it in the cloud, adding another layer of security.  An additional boon to cloud computing is that you can access your data from multiple devices, and/or move it from one to another.  Today it is hard to remember the time when everything one did on one’s computer had to be stored on the hard drive plus floppy disks!  Of course, external removable storage devices still are used.  One can certainly back up data to an external hard drive or to a memory stick.  A word of warning though: memory sticks are amazingly easy to misplace!

At the moment, I am dictating this article on my iPhone, far away from my laptop computer. My iPhone backs up to Apple’s iCloud which is accessible via any of my devices that is connected to the Internet.  Later I will open and edit it on my computer using Microsoft Word.  Word automatically saves everything to something called Microsoft OneDrive, which is also someplace out there in the cloud.  For added security, I choose, as well, to back everything up on my hard drive.

Are there other cloud storage solutions?  Dropbox, named after the ubiquitous book drop boxes outside all libraries, is among the most popular storage systems currently available.  Documents, photographs, and videos can be moved from your phone or computer to Dropbox for safekeeping.  Families and work teams appreciate the ability to share access to Dropbox.  The basic plan is free and can be found at

Google Drive ( offers up to 15 GB of free storage, much more than Dropbox.  But this space assumes that you will be using Google applications and is divided accordingly. Google Drive may well be the storage solution for you if you are using Google photos, Gmail, Google sheets and documents, or other Google production tools.

When thinking and reading about the cloud, remember the following:

  • it is everywhere
  • it is powerful
  • it can be free
  • no one owns the cloud.

Article written by resident Elaine Emerson and originally published on the February 2021 CONNECTIONS Resident Newsletter