What is cloud computing? Discover more about a technology you are probably using every day

We take a closer look at the cloud, a convenient way of storing files and accessing apps and programs on almost any device wherever you are in the world.

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.

In fact, you're probably using the cloud already, and you haven't even realised it.

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What is the cloud?

The cloud is a remote network of powerful computers and programs that companies use to store information for providing 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 it. Popular cloud services include:

  • Netflix: Users stream TV programmes and films from the cloud instead of downloading them to a device.
  • Microsoft’s Office online: You can use web-based versions of apps such as Word and Excel, which are hosted in the cloud.
  • Games services like Steam Cloud: Gamers can to play online instead of with a disc.
  • Google services: Google Drive, Maps and Photos are all based in the cloud. If you've got an Android smartphone, when you back it your data up you're also using the cloud. 
  • Facebook: Your Facebook information is stored in the cloud, so when you log into a new computer you can access your account, including your photos.
  • BT Cloud: BT provides a cloud storage service exclusively and for free to all our BT Broadband and BT Infinity customers to store documents, photos and videos. Find out more.

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 - be it a phone or a tablet.

Many companies offer customers cloud storage when they buy products or services, for instance BT Cloud is available to BT broadband customers, depending on your package, you'll get 10GB, 200GB or 1000GB free.

What’s so good about cloud storage?               

1: Cloud storage is an easy and convenient way to back up documents and files of all kinds. By backing up remotely, in the event that your laptop breaks or your phone gets stolen, you won't lose important data and irreplaceable memories like photos with them. When you get a new phone, you simply log in with your Google or iOS account to access all your apps and information, which is stored in the cloud.

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

3: Upload a photo from your laptop to BT Cloud and you can view it straight away on your phone or any other device, wherever you as. You just need an internet connection and web browser.

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

5: Using a service like BT Cloud to store your files frees up storage space on your phone, tablet or laptop. 

6: The cloud is an easy way to share things like photos with with family and friends. BT Cloud allows you to send a link to your photos.

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 services wherever you are - as long as you’ve got an internet connection and a compatible device.

Cloud computing diagram

For instance, if you wanted to access Twitter on a different computer to usual, you can fire up a browser on any machine in the world and log in to access your account. Similarly, you can log into Office and use Microsoft Word without having to install the program on the machine.

Also, instead of copying photos onto a USB key to share with friends, using BT Cloud you just share a link over email and anyone can view them online.

All this makes using the cloud incredibly convenient.

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