What Exactly is a “Cloud”?

We hear it used all the time.  But can someone explain in simple terms:  What is a “Cloud”?

In simplest terms, cloud computing is a service where you can obtain networked storage space and other computer resources through Internet access.

The cloud is not a physical entity, but instead is a vast network of remote servers around the globe that are hooked together and meant to operate as a single ecosystem. These servers are designed to either store and manage data, run applications, or deliver content or a service such as streaming videos, webmail, office productivity software, or social media. Instead of accessing files and data from a local or personal computer, you are accessing them online from any Internet-capable device—the information will be available anywhere you go and anytime you need it.

While these systems may remove the need for owning physical components, they also introduce new risks to your information. Before you float your digital assets to the cloud, make sure you take the appropriate steps to protect yourself.

Know your needs. Before you start, make sure you carefully plan what your security and privacy needs are. This includes knowing what your legal and regulatory requirements are for protecting data.

Read the contracts. End-User License Agreements and Service Level Agreements are important because they describe the terms and conditions of the cloud service. If you’re not sure of what they do or do not provide, contact the provider to clarify the services.

Protect your computer. Enable your firewall, use multi-factor authentication, use anti-virus/malware and anti-spyware software.

Protect your data. Don’t store unencrypted sensitive information in the cloud. You don’t know with whom you’re sharing the cloud!

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