What is the cloud? Google Docs, iCloud and Office 365 explained

Photoshop and Word live in the cloud. So do Netflix and Spotify. For Apple, it brings your iPhone and Mac closer together. Bit what is the cloud exactly?

19 Jun 2017

Cloud computing has been around for a few years. But it’s only recently that it’s really started to catch on. Put simply, it means services and software delivered over the internet rather than as something that’s downloaded onto your computer.

So you can work in different places using your smartphone or tablet as well as your laptop, and sign up to streaming services rather buying hard copies of music and box-sets.

Read on to find out how Apple, Google, Microsoft and Adobe use the cloud.


A word on security

Keeping your personal data safe is at the heart of the cloud services talked about in this article. Apple, for example, says: 'iCloud is built with industry-standard security practices and employs strict policies to protect your information'.


Apple iCloud

Apple calls its cloud services iCloud. The service 'securely stores your photos, videos, documents, music, apps and more' says the Apple site.

iCloud is aimed squarely at those with iPhones, iPads and the iMac desktop and MacBook laptop. The basic idea is when you save something on one of your Apple devices, it’s available across all of them.


iCloud Drive

This gives you secure access to work docs like spreadsheets and presentations from any of your Apple devices. Save the document on your iMac then pull it up on your iPhone or iPad using the built-in iCloud Drive app.


iCloud Photo Library

Every photo you take on your iPhone is uploaded to iCloud so you can then access it from your iMac or MacBook as well as your iPhone or iPad. Your pictures are organised automatically, and sharing with friends and family is easy. If you prefer taking photos with a DSLR or a compact camera, these can be easily uploaded to.


Family Sharing

This gives your whole family access to your iTunes and App Store purchases from their own iPads, iPhones and Macs. Family photos and calendars can be shared too. Parents can approve kids’ spending from their own devices.


iCloud Storage

You can securely manage everything stored in your iCloud using your iCloud storage settings. So you can see how much of your storage is taken up with photos and how much with docs, for example.



In the same way that iCloud is designed for Apple fans, Google’s cloud services are perfect for anyone with an Android phone or who uses a Windows laptop or PC. 


Google Drive

Store your documents, spreadsheets, meetings notes and more, and access them from any smartphone, computer or tablet. Sharing your files with others can be done in a few simple steps – forget about email attachments.The cloud 

Google Photos

One home for all your photos. It’s easy to back up and view photos across your smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC. Your photos will be automatically organised by people, places and things. Sharing pictures with friends and family is easy.


Google Docs

Online web apps for word processing (Docs), presentations (Slides) and spreadsheets (Sheets). Create documents that you can access from anywhere, and invite others to edit them at the same time as you. Because there’s only one version, you can say goodbye to version control.


What about Microsoft and Adobe?

Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite are the dominant software packages for business and the creative industries respectively. Traditionally these were pieces of software that came on disks and had to be downloaded onto your laptop or Mac.

Today they are largely delivered over the cloud. So rather than buying a hard copy, you sign up for an online subscription where the software is accessed through your web browser. 

With Adobe, this is done through the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription packages. This gives you 12 months’ access to Photoshop for photo editing, Illustrator for graphic design and Premiere for filmmaking 

Office 365 is the Microsoft subscription service for online versions of Word, PowerPoint and Excel. You can also enjoy cloud storage for all of your documents with OneDrive. You can share your Office 365 subscription with up 4 other people who live with you.

Get started with the cloud

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