Cloud storage is remote storage which is accessed over the Internet.
The remote storage is often located in a data centre, a specially constructed building housing a large set of computers with a very fast connection to the internet. However, small companies sometimes create their own cloud storage based on a single PC. You can even use a device such as a Raspberry Pi as a small cloud server.
Some well known examples of cloud storage are Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive. Services like this allow you to store files in the cloud. They often offer a certain amount of storage for free, but with a monthly charge for more space.
There are several ways to transfer files to or from cloud servers:
Some cloud services are specifically aimed at data backup. They usually have special software, installed on your computer, which automatically copies changes to the cloud as you work. This means that you never have to remember to make backups, and if your disk ever fails you will be able to recover almost all your work, even files you only edited a few minutes before disaster struck.
There are also cloud services aimed at businesses which offer higher levels of security and reliability, for example by storing copies of your data in different data centres is different parts of the world.
The main uses of cloud storage are:
Generally, cloud storage is fairly cheap, easy to set up, and doesn't require much maintenance.
For backing up data, cloud storage has the advantage that the data is stored off-site. This means it is safe against anything that could happen to your computer at home or in an office - disk failure, accidental deletion of files, natural disaster, theft etc.
Any data stored in the cloud can be accessed remotely, provided you know the username and password to log in.
Many services allow for sharing data. It is possible to set up different folders which are either public (anyone can access the data), private (only you can access the data), or shared (specific users can access the data).
There are a few potential disadvantages of cloud storage:
Cloud computing takes cloud storage one stage further. Both the data and the application live in the cloud.
An example of that is Gmail (Google mail). In that case, your emails are stored in the cloud. But when you want to access your emails, you don't use an email client (such as Thunderbird), you access your emails in your browser.
The Gmail client is software which is downloaded and runs in a web page on your browser:
The Gmail software then communicates with the server to send and retrieve emails.
There are many examples of cloud computing:
Cloud computing has all the advantages of cloud storage (off-site storage, accessible from anywhere, and the possibility of sharing resources), but with additional features:
Cloud computing has a few disadvantages:
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