The "cloud"

It seems that “everyone” nowadays is talking about the “cloud.”

Take these two sentences from the September 24, 2012, issue of TIME:

This new rental economy [many Americans are renting things instead of buying them] is made possible … because of the cloud. The vastness of cloud technology has both expanded our definition of renting and allowed us to rent more."

Would you please use simple English and tell me what in the world the “cloud” is?


For the meaning of “cloud” in the context of computer technology, see . This is a very popular buzz-word right now.

Unfortunately, I cannot see any obvious connection with Americans renting things instead of buying them – unless it is talking about renting media (films, music) which are then accessed over the Internet?

I think the point about rental is instead of owning a big computer with a lot of memory, you are really just “renting” space on someone else’s computer - like Google’s or Photo Bucket’s. I think it is interesting that we are almost going full-circle. When I learned computer programming they had one big mainframe computer with a bunch of “dumb terminals” connected to it. Replace the mainframe with “the cloud” and we seem to be heading back in that direction.

I think you’re right in a way.
The cloud technology is about “renting/borrowing” another computer (accessing another computer via a portable device/another computer) and doing your work on that computer.
The main implication is that you can work on a very powerful computer via a smart phone (remotely), watch movies/listen to music/do calculations etc.

PS: while I was writing my reply, Luschen has posted his :)))

Thank you, everyone, for the great answers.