What is “The Cloud”

So, a funny thing happened to me the other day, and for those of my readers that understand the tech, you’ll laugh now. For the rest of you, you’ll laugh at the end of the post. So my Mom says to me the other day, “Sarah, what is the cloud, and do I have to pay to use it?”. I completely died laughing. I felt bad, cause she really wanted to know, but I couldn’t keep it in. It was like the day in high school (back around 1995 or 1996), when Clueless was a big hit of a movie. My Mom turned to me one night and put one thumb on one side of her chin, the other thumb on the other side of her chin, with her index fingers and in the air and said “Whatever”. Oh man was my Mom hopelessly UNHIP. I digress…

“The Cloud” is basically the Internet. For those of you who use gmail, your emails and contacts live in the cloud. Which means you can access those emails from your computer at home, the computer at work, your phone, etc etc etc. When you use Windows Live Sky Drive, your files are also in the cloud. The great thing about that is that you can be editing a file and your friend across the country can get those changes instantly, without the need to email it back and forth. You can both access the same files from the cloud.

Most smartphones also store their data in the cloud.  My Palm Pre gets all of it’s contacts from Facebook, Gmail, and even has the Palm Profile contacts that live in the cloud.  The WONDERFUL thing about smartphones getting their information from the cloud is that replacing a phone is easy as can be.  Lose your phone?  No problem!  It gets dropped in the toilet?  NO Problem!  You get a new phone, re-download the information and you are good to go.  No messing around with trying to backup the phone and restore all of it’s data.  When it lives in the cloud someone else is worrying about the backup.

There is also cloud computing.  You can create a virtual machine running an operating system, and you don’t even have to have a physical computer to access the files and programs on it.  You can access those files and programs when and wherever you are.  Since the machine isn’t really a machine, but an operating system that lives in the cloud.

So, the phrase “get your head out of the clouds” takes on a whole new meaning now doesn’t it.  To answer my mother’s question… really it depends.  You need to pay for data on your phone to access information from the cloud.  You need to pay for Internet access at home to access things in the cloud.  Sometimes you need to pay to host your files somewhere.  As a general rule though, the cloud is free, and ready for everyone to use and love.

On a side note… I’m heading to CES tomorrow night!!!  Woo to the HOO!!  I can’t wait to tell everyone all the wonderful things I’ve seen and found at CES (Consumer Electronics Show).  After CES I’m heading to Ford in Michigan for a Ford Green Tech event and to attend the NAIAS.  I’m super excited for both events, and I’ll tell you more about the Ford thing tomorrow!  I LOVE JANUARY!

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About the author

Sarah Werle Kimmel

Sarah Werle Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 20 years of her career working as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on local NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX news affiliates, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com


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