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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In the cloud? You mean it's up in the sky?

A cloud used to be something kids watched lying on their backs outdoors, making up stories about their shapes. Evan as little kids, we understood: clouds made rain. Shelly even wrote a beautiful poem about clouds.

But now we have (ta-da) The Cloud. This is one the hottest technology buzzwords of the decade. Even we at TapToTalk now use it. We say that TapToTalk Designer stores your AAC albums in the cloud, where your devices sync with them. But what exactly does that mean?

It means that the albums are stored on a server somewhere, and can be downloaded over the Internet.

So, you ask, what't the big deal, and why don't you just say that?

The big deal is that if something is in the cloud, you don't have to know where exactly it really is in order to access it. Our server can be anywhere in the world (want to guess what U.S. state it is in?). We can move it anywhere in the world. You don't need to know where it is, nor care if we move it. Through the magic of the Internet, that server is available to you wherever you are, as long as you can get online. As with all things webbish, you don't need to think about it, it is just there (as long as you don't lose your connection).

The use of the term cloud probably started because a cloud was (and still is) often used in diagrams to represent the Internet. The cloud in those diagrams stood for the collection of servers and routers and satellites and cables and radio towers and on and on that made up the Internet. It was hard to depict all that stuff in a simple diagram symbol. A cloud shape seemed to describe the Internet's indefinite, ever-changing form, and its use caught on.

So now when someone asks where your web-based stuff is, just smile, wave your hand vaguely towards the heavens, and say knowingly, "Oh, it's in the cloud."

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