The weather forecast calls for 'the cloud'

While writing this article I became curious about the etymology of the term "buzzword." I conducted my research at 2 a.m., hopelessly jet-lagged from having traveled halfway around the world, and in my jammies (but no pink bunny slippers, I swear). All possible because of the "cloud."

Cloud is the latest buzzword that is rooted in the digital world, heavily marketed to both individuals and businesses alike. There’s nothing new here to intimidate you and chances are good that you have been using the cloud all along. Just like the buzzword "information superhighway," coined by former Vice President Al Gore, cloud doesn’t represent anything new but it is actually a marketing rehash of the disruptive innovation that we know of as the internet.

Do you have an email address? Pay your bills online? Store your pictures online? Or read your Westlake | Bay Village Observer on your tablet? These are some of the things you can do while connected to the cloud, offering you tangible benefits such as saving money and intangible benefits like saving time. Internet-based services are in every nook and cranny of our lives and these cloud-based services are not going away.

I was testing you on that last sentence, using the phrases "internet-based services" and "cloud-based services" simultaneously to see if you were paying attention that they are synonymous. Another use of this buzzword is to add the phrase "in the cloud," as in "storing your data in the cloud," which is again synonymous to saying storing your data on the internet.

But what’s the catch? For one, privacy and security are hotly debated. For example after backing up your data to an external hard drive (which I discussed in the last issue), you can also back up to the cloud. When doing so I consider it prudent to ask the following question: Would you cry if the data is stolen from your storage locker in the cloud?

Although there are services that enable you to scramble (geek talk: encrypt) your data before it leaves your computer, without such functionality or without knowing how to scramble it yourself, it only takes one bad apple to rifle through your contents. Data theft also happens through outsider intrusions as witnessed by the current media feeding frenzy on break-in news.

The analogy is that these storage services in the cloud are like apartments where landlords have the master key to all units. I remember keeping my passport and other valuables in a portable safe and hidden away. The bottom line is that you would want to be selective of what you store in the cloud.

When your know-it-all-friend talks about using the cloud, you can nonchalantly inform your friend that you’ve been using the cloud since the new millenium. The truth is, probably you have – because the cloud equals the internet. I just submitted this article from Japan through the cloud!

Next issue’s topic: "Family connectedness in the digital world"

Tak welcomes reader feedback and technology questions. You may send them to editor@wbvobserver.com.

Tak Sato

Business and technology strategist/consultant with 20+ years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and MBA from Cleveland State University.

As founder of geek with a heart, "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps Individuals, Seniors, Families, Small Businesses, and Non-Profits utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 5, Issue 23, Posted 10:13 AM, 11.12.2013