The cloud, or cloud computing, is a type of storage that uses a network of physical locations to store software, hardware and services that run on the internet rather than on your device. The cloud is an all-encompassing term that includes multiple “clouds” that are run by businesses, universities and the government.

Cloud providers offer cloud services, such as online applications, data storage, infrastructure, computing power and software-as-a-service (SaaS), delivering applications to end users via the internet.

Most people are familiar with cloud services for consumers, such as Google Drive, Apple iCloud, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive and Netflix, which store photos, documents, contacts and other information. And there are a growing number of business applications available in the cloud, including business intelligence and analytics applications.

Benefits of the Cloud

  • Inexpensive: Small businesses benefit from cloud services that require fewer hardware and software purchases, less storage space for hardware, fewer resources devoted to system maintenance and less electricity to cool and power systems.
  • Convenient: Cloud services provide data and applications that can be accessed from any device in any location with access to Wi-Fi. This allows remote or traveling employees to access files and applications securely from anywhere in the world.
  • Scalable: Providers offer packages that allow users and businesses to pay for only what is needed — computing, storage, applications and more. Cloud computing can allocate and manage the resources to accommodate enterprise IT requirements for technologies like massive data warehouses.
  • Secure: Both private and public clouds can be threatened by a data breach. However, generally, cloud providers offer robust security to prevent breaches.

Unfortunately, besides benefits, the Cloud also has some disadvantages. Because the internet is necessary to access the information stored in the cloud, you can be restricted from accessing your data if there’s no internet or a poor internet connection. This can also occur with technical issues or outages on the server-side. Cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud do occasionally have outages. And not all data can go to the Cloud – regulatory compliance issues may prevent some data from moving there.