Conversations about life & privacy in the digital age

Explaining The Cloud to my Grandparents

Granny and Papa

Pleasure to meet you! I’m new to the SpiderOak team. And I’m new to the cloud technologies space – I come from four years of work with an international nonprofit, Water.org.

I’m completely fascinated. Intrigued. Excited, even. I find myself not only spending time each day learning more about the world of backup, sync, share, and access (mobile), and all things related, but trying to adequately explain to someone else in my life what it all is. It’s good practice.

I recently visited my beloved, hospitable and humorous grandparents – Granny and Papa – in Memphis, Tennessee. As I told them about SpiderOak, they asked the question I have come to expect on a regular basis: “What is the cloud?”

A few weeks ago, SpiderOak’s Jovan Washington wrote a blog post called “Living the CloudLife: Cloud Computing 101,” in which he rightfully called cloud computing a critical trend, and asked “How would you explain the cloud to your mother?”

I took on that challenge. But let me give you a little background: Papa gets on AOL every morning to check his email, the news, his stocks, and forwards the latest funny email, such as “Wal-Martians”. He also keeps tabs on some of the family via Facebook ( i.e. “lurking”). I helped my Granny get on Pinterest (although she loved it, I don’t think she’s active), and she has an e-reader. As far as grandparents go, I think they are doing pretty good with progressive technology.

So I told Granny and Papa:

“The past few years, I haven’t had my own personal laptop, just my work computer. And I obviously had to turn that back in when I left. Since I’d had it for years, it had all my personal music, photos, and documents on it too, besides work stuff.

So, I opened a SpiderOak account, and had it backup, or save, everything off my computer. Then, I completely erased everything on my computer, and turned it back into work, empty. Now, whenever I buy a new computer, I can login my SpiderOak account, and grab anything I want that I had saved off of my old computer. I can just access it, or save it to my new computer. But it’s all there – on the cloud. And no one can get to it but me. And if my computer burns in a fire, everything will still be there for me in the future.”

Even within these past few weeks, I’ve learned to tell most people – “Actually, you know what the cloud is, you just don’t know you do – all of our photos on Facebook, our email in gmail, anything in Google Docs, or if you have photos on Flickr – that is cloud storage, or cloud-based sharing.”

What do you think? How did I do? What did I miss? How do you explain the cloud to someone who doesn’t know?

I’m excited and honored to be a part of the SpiderOak team, getting to know you – the loyal SpiderOak user, and the ever-growing space. In fact, you probably recently heard that Google announced its contribution: Google Drive.

If you missed it, last week, our CEO Ethan Oberman was interviewed on InvestorPlace about the Facebook IPO. I also enjoyed the 6 Myths About Cloud Backup You Probably Thought Were True (as well as the Zero-Knowledge shout out that linked to our mention).

Cheers! Thank you for the warm welcome, and see you here again very soon…
Erin Swanson

P.S. Stay tuned for a SpiderOak announcement this week, particularly of interest to universities.

Comments

  1. Lisa Harlow says:

    Hi Erin,

    I really enjoyed your first post. Your explanation was wonderful! Our nonprofit went to a cloud environment last year. Wish someone had taken the time to give us non-tekkies an explanation. Enjoyed seeing your props.

  2. Samual says:

    I agree, it is a good explanation of "cloud storage". I thought the analogy between Gmail and SpiderOak was pretty strait forward.

    Instead of marketing unfortunately confusing people with the term "cloud", why not just call it "online storage". Maybe even refer to it as our own personal "internet hard drive".

  3. Jovan Washington says:

    @Samual – I have often thought to myself, "Maybe if the language changed, some people would understand the concept more." You are right, "online storage" – which is a popular term actually – and "internet hard drive" are terms that will definitely get the point across. Sometime I get caught up in the marketing lingo myself. However, I think there may be a shift in the industry to make the term even more user friendly in a few years. We shall see…

  4. BarefootNH says:

    @Samual – you're absolutely correct: marketing "clouded" the issue when they renamed practical and well-known terms "the Cloud." A cloud is ever-changing, uncontrollable, and can even be foreboding. "Online Storage", "Internet Hard Drive", and similar terms are definitive and self-explanatory.

  5. Tim says:

    to summize : Cloud equals what we all commonly know as CYBERSPACE ?