Cloud computing is a term you might have heard of. It has nothing to do with the weather; instead the term ‘cloud’ is a metaphor to describe a type of computing that more and more companies and their customers are using.

What is the cloud?

The cloud is a remote network of powerful computers and programs that companies use to store information or which provide processing power for programs.

For a more detailed look at the cloud, including safety factors, read our article: The cloud - explained

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is when users access data, programs or storage space on their devices, using the internet.

You are probably using the cloud every day without even realising. Cloud services include:

  • Netflix: users stream TV programs and films using the cloud.
  • Microsoft’s Office online lets you use web-based versions of apps such as Word and Excel, which are hosted in the cloud.
  • Games services like Steam Cloud also use the cloud, allowing gamers to play online instead of with a disc.
  • Google Maps and Google’s mapping software is based in the cloud
  • Social network Facebook is based in the cloud.
  • BT Cloud provides cloud storage for BT broadband customers to store documents, photos and videos.

What is cloud storage?

Cloud storage is when you store files such as documents, music, images and video clips remotely from your device and access them over the internet.

Cloud storage diagram

Cloud storage is different from local storage, which is when information is stored on your device.

Many companies offer customers cloud storage when they buy products or services, for instance BT broadband customers get 5GB, 100GB or 500GB of storage (depending on the package) with BT Cloud.

What’s so good about cloud storage?               

Cloud storage is an easy and convenient way to back up documents and files of all kinds. By backing up remotely in the event your laptop breaks or phone gets stolen, you haven’t lost your digital files - and more importantly irreplaceable memories like photos.

Cloud storage services like BT Cloud work across multiple devices such as laptops, mobile phones and tablets.

Upload a photo from your laptop to BT Cloud and you can view it straight away on your phone - or any device with an internet connection and web browser.

Make a change to a document stored in a cloud-storage service and the change will apply across all devices.

How does cloud computing differ from regular computing?

Instead of a program or document being stored on your computer, all data and functionality is stored in the cloud, which means that you can save hard drive space on your devices and access that data and service wherever you are - as long as you’ve got an internet connection and a compatible device.

Cloud computing diagram

For instance if you want to access Facebook on a different computer to usual, you can fire up a browser on any machine in the world and login to access your account. Similarly, you can log into Office and use Microsoft Word without having to install the programme on the machine, and instead of copying photos onto a USB key to share with friends using BT Cloud  you can share a link by email, and they can view them online.

This makes using the cloud incredibly convenient.

Read more: 'Back up your data' to avoid cyber attacks: Discover the free and easy way to do it with BT Cloud