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What is cloud computing?

A view of clouds in the sky

If you use more than one computer, or have a smartphone as well as a PC, you've probably endured the hassle of trying to share your files across them. But don't worry, there's a new solution to this problem, and it comes in the form of 'the cloud'.

WebWise Team | 10th October 2012

'The cloud' refers to various services where information and files are kept on servers connected to the internet. This means that instead of keeping them on a single computer that you have to stay at, any device you use that's online can access the same files. You can't see the cloud in the sky, but it's definitely got a silver lining.

What can cloud computing do?

At its most basic, cloud computing means you can upload your files to a service and then download them again wherever you are. This can be useful for working collaboratively, or for allowing multiple people to access the same files. This ability can also be used to backup your important information - even if your house (and computer) burns down, your files in the cloud should be safe.

Using cloud services, you can also store music tracks from your personal collection and then listen to them wherever you are, as long as you're connected to the internet. There are similar services for photos available as well. There's even a service that lets you play high-end computer games on low power computers by running the game on a server that you connect to and then sending you the pictures of the game responding to your button presses. This means you can play a game without having to install it, or even download it at all.

What cloud services are available?

Dropbox is one of the most popular services available - it lets you upload any kind of file and have any computer (or even smartphone) you want 'synchronise' with it to access the same files. Dropbox offers two gigabytes of online storage for free with more available for a fee. Similar services include OpenDrive, SafeSync and Box.

Google has its own cloud music service - imaginatively called 'Google Music' - that lets users store up to 20,000 songs - though currently this service is only available in the US. Apple's service is called iCloud, and lets users share images, music and other files from home computers to Apple branded phones, tablets and other devices. The online games service mentioned above is called OnLive.

'The cloud' is in fact a very vague term - even video on-demand services such as LoveFilm, Netflix, the BBC's iPlayer and even YouTube could be considered cloud services.

The WebWise 'W'

WebWise Team

WebWise was first launched in 1998 and since then has helped people of all ages to learn about and love the internet.