Cloud-based computing refers to computing using data and programs available only through the Internet. When you store and access data and programs on your hard drive, it's known as local computing. Programs or data accessible only while online are referred to as being "in the cloud" because they are accessible from anywhere there is a computer connection.

Consumer Cloud

The average non-business cloud user typically utilizes the technology to store data, such as photos, documents and other files. Google Drive, Apple iCloud and Amazon Cloud Drive are all examples of online storage and computing services, and can keep backup copies of the apps and files from your mobile phone and computer on file in case the device fails. Email is essentially a form of cloud computing, as you can access these files online from any computer or phone in the world. This is the most common type of cloud model, called Infrastructure as a Service, or IaaS.

Business Cloud

The cloud is different for businesses, which use the platform to enable all employees at all locations to use the same programs and applications. These types of cloud models include Platform as a Service, PaaS, and Software as a Service, SaaS. PaaS models enable businesses to develop in-house applications and databases, while SaaS models give businesses access to third-party applications already available in the cloud.

Advantages of the Cloud

Consumers find cloud use advantageous because it eliminates the need for numerous hard drives for their ever-growing collection of programs, data and files. Usually, the information is safe even if the device where the original file was saved fails. Businesses can save money by utilizing cloud resources, as they do not need to incur expenses to upgrade computer or server technology in all locations. Business information is available at all times to anyone within the company with the proper access, keeping all aspects of the business current and updated.

Disadvantages of the Cloud

Although cloud service providers take various measures to ensure your data's safety and security, no technology is foolproof. The major disadvantages of the cloud generally deal with the fact that you are dependent on a third party for storage and access. Hacker attacks and security vulnerabilities could leave your information susceptible to compromise or deletion. A cyberattack or hardware failure could result in the loss of all your uploaded data, or the cloud service provider you use may encounter unforeseen difficulties and go offline, taking your data with it.