What is cloud computing?

01 September 2015

We hear about cloud computing every day but what is it and how does it work? Our guide explains the term and the features, benefits and safety risks.



If you’re feeling a little cloudy about the cloud, knowing one fact should clear the air. ‘The cloud’ is actually a network of remote servers (storage, data processing and distribution computers) where information and files are kept. 

When you sign up for a cloud service, you can upload your information and files to the service's huge storage power and download them again wherever you are.

We use the cloud every day, often without knowing it. For instance, email services operate from remote servers and our emails are stored on their servers to give us access to them from any device.

Making the most of cloud computing

Personal computers and other internet-connected devices have limited storage space. Using a free or paid cloud storage service can free you from storing information on their hard drives and give you access to it from any device that has an internet connection. Some commonly used cloud storage services include:

  • Dropbox allows you to store documents, images, videos and other data in the cloud. You get two gigabytes of storage with a free account and can pay for more space if you need it.

  • Google Drive is one of the world’s most popular cloud applications. Drive gives you 15 gigabytes of storage for free and you can purchase more space if you need it.

  • Apple iCloud is for you if you use an Apple computer, iPhone or other Apple device. You get five gigabytes of free storage space and can purchase more if or when you need it.  

But storage isn’t all that cloud computing is good for. You can do almost anything with a software program in the cloud, including word processing, accounting, designing, drawing and much more. When you’re done, you can save it in the cloud or download it to your personal computer.

Is it safe?

Despite many benefits, there are always risks involved when you use a service that millions of others can gain access to. You only need to look at the recent hacking into celebrities’ Apple iCloud accounts to see why.

Putting your personal information into the hands of a private corporation poses other potential problems, because there are no laws in place to protect you or your information. 

As PC magazine says, “Cloud-computing – like so much about the internet – is a little bit like the Wild West, where the rules are made up as you go, and you hope for the best.”

But the key to the cloud is to be smart about how you use it. It’s a safe and convenient way to store your non-sensitive information. Just keep private and confidential material like your bank details and passwords (or any cheeky photos) somewhere hackers don’t have access to – offline. 

Indeed, poor passwords pose a greater risk than cloud storage. To find out more, check out our guide on how to choose and remember a secure online password.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.