If you’ve used Google, Apple’s iCloud or an online streaming service like YouTube, you’ve enjoyed the benefits of the cloud whether you knew it or not. But how does it work and where is it? Here’s a simple breakdown to help you better understand.

What is the Cloud?

Consider the cloud a metaphor for the internet. Using the cloud means you’re storing and accessing data online via an internet connection rather than a physical hard drive. This technology allows people around the world to access data simultaneously through a variety of applications.

Why is the Cloud Beneficial?

The cloud eliminates the need for portable hard drives, USB flash drives and floppy disks when it’s time to transfer data. All you need is an internet connection.

Cloud storage also helps keep your files secure. For example, a stolen or damaged hard drive means a complete loss of photos, documents and more. But if you’re automatically syncing your data and storing it in the cloud, you have a remote backup should something go wrong.

The cloud takes some of the strain off your personal computer or laptop. Rather than use programs that require a lot of space on the hard drive, such as a word processor, cloud users can find the same functionality online with services like Google Docs.

Is Your Data Safe In the Cloud?

Dedicated cloud services invest in cyber security. Most high-profile breaches that make the news are the result of poorly built in-house storage systems. Users often put their data at risk with easily deciphered passwords and disabled security options.

Want to protect your data further? Take advantage of security features built into your mobile devices, use complex passwords for every device and website, and change your passwords often.