It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s NOT the Cloud

This iPhone cannot be backed up because there is not enough iCloud storage available.  You can manage your storage in Settings.

Be honest, doesn’t that message make you want to punt a bunny? We all rely heavily on the cloud and talk about the cloud, but do you actually know what it is? It’s that nebulous idea that our storage is floating in the sky somewhere… definitely above where the airplanes are, that way it isn’t disrupted. None of those are correct. Turns out, the name is a bit confusing because the cloud has a home and no, it’s not in the sky.

The idea of the cloud was first called “Time-sharing” back in the 1960’s. It was the idea that multiple users could interact simultaneously, in different locations, using the same computer system. It seemed like a wild thought but fast forward about 45ish years and the term “cloud computing” was coined at a conference by Google CEO, Eric Schmidt.  

The cloud allows you to access, work off of, and share files regardless of your location or what computer you are using. Apple, Facebook, and Google are all public clouds that allow for storage and sharing of your music, photos, and documents.  There are also private clouds which companies own to allow their employees to access their information using their own network.

The irony is that these mysterious “clouds” are really just data centers that are physically located around the world… on the ground.  These data centers are massive and the fifth largest in the world is right here in Atlanta, Georgia: QTS Metro Data Center. Storage centers are the epicenter of our files and serve as the “mothership” for our storage. These servers require large warehouses and are often referred to as “server farms.” They require an incredible amount of energy, for cooling and power, as these computers run 24/7 storing your data.

Fun fact? Location is very important. For instance, Facebook has a large server farm located in the Arctic Circle to avoid the need for air conditioning. Running massive servers generates a ton of heat and the Arctic air is enough to cool the computers. Facebook is actually saving the amount of energy that could be used to run a small town, with this single location.

If it feels vulnerable or unsafe to store your information where you can’t see or touch it, it may be safer than you think. Starting in 2013, Google Cloud Storage automatically started protecting data using 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-128). There are also software companies that provide security for your online data storage like Mozy or Carbonite.  While this type of security isn’t completely necessary, it does add an extra layer. Bottom line? No matter what happens to your devices, the cloud protects your data no strings attached.

The cloud has improved things for businesses as well as for personal use.  Work can be done more quickly and effectively through file sharing and instant accessibility.  Gone are the days where you couldn’t complete a project because your dog ate your thumb drive. Photos and videos as well as instant messages are also keeping families and friends connected all over the world, in real time.

We are all users of this large and never ending “cloud”, and now you know it’s not just data in the sky. From email to secure documents, the cloud is of service to all of us as internet users.  It is safe, reliable, and we have it to thank for increased productivity, ease, and better connectivity.