In its simplest form, it is the storage of information on a remote system. That system is usually a cluster of servers housed in a data center. The idea is that rather than store information locally on your computer hard drive, that information is instead uploaded via the Internet to a data center.

The whole cloud concept came about due to the fact that it is quite a good analogy. You don't know the particulars of where your data is stored and instead you can think of it as floating in the sky.

Because the sky exists everywhere in the world, so too can you access your data. This is one of the great benefits, data availability. You can be anywhere in the world and access the same data that you access can at home. Also, you are not limited to accessing that data on one computer or device. You can access it using any device you own.

The days of backing up to external hard drives are not quite behind us, but with internet access speeds continuing to increase year by year, backing up data to the cloud is definitely going to be the most common approach in the future. This leads me to the point that cloud storage is an excellent way to backup your data. In most cases, depending on your provider, it all happens automatically. So you don't even need to worry about it.

A great example of cloud storage in action would be Apples' new iCloud service. You might have heard of it. This is a great example of a cloud storage service. If you own an iPhone and like to take pictures, those pictures on your camera role are automatically uploaded to the cloud. This is great, because if you also own an Apple TV, you can take photos while out of the home and upon your return, view them on the big screen. This is all possible due to cloud storage.

There are many cloud storage providers, all priced differently though you'll mostly find them priced based on the amount of storage you require. There are also a handful of free cloud storage providers but these generally offer very small amounts of data storage. If you're planning on backing up a huge amount of data (a lot of photos or movies for example), you may need to shop around and find the best plan for you. However, if you're only looking to backup a handful of documents or contact info, perhaps the free cloud storage providers are worth taking a look at.

So that's it really. All you need to know about cloud storage. You can delve into the technical side of things if you like, but this is the simplest explanation.

By Peter J Christensen