When it comes to computing, what is “the Cloud”? Tech writer Erin Bennett explains.

It’s not a literal cloud and it’s not even airborne. The Cloud is a service that lets you remotely store computer files so you can access them anywhere via the internet. Instead of the files being on your computer or an external hard drive, they are stored on servers all over the world. The Cloud is an amalgamation of servers in different locations and countries.

The files you store in the Cloud might be a copy (backup) of files stored on your local hard drive. This gives peace of mind that you won’t lose them in the event of a human, natural or hardware disaster.

The main advantage of cloud storage is you can access your files from anywhere, at any time, on just about any device – a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. But with easy access comes security issues.

If someone knows, or can guess, your username and password they could gain access to your files. However, this security risk can be combated by using a secure password, making sure your smartphone and tablet are locked and not using shared computers to access your files in the Cloud.

There are a number of companies offering cloud storage from big names like Microsoft and Google to outfits like SugarSync and JustCloud. Many offer a basic free service with limited storage and file sizes, so you can try the Cloud before you commit.

Cloud storage is a great way to ensure your computer files are safe and easily accessible. There are a lot of options to consider when looking for a service, so make a checklist of your wants and needs. These could include the maximum storage size, maximum file upload size, data encryption, two-step authentication and the type of synchronisation used.