Five things you need to know about 'the cloud'

Menacing as this hazy tech term may sound, the cloud is actually a regular part of daily digital life. In fact, gadget analysts expect this metaphorical cloud to envelop more of the world in coming years.

2. How is this different from the regular Internet?

Rich Clabaugh/Staff

The cloud is really just a different way of using the Internet. Both terms are used rather liberally, says Mark Weiner, senior vice president of marketing at Virtela, which manages companies' computer networks, in part through cloud services.

" 'The Internet' is a really fuzzy term, as the same word describes both the content and network," says Mr. Weiner. He prefers to use the word "Internet" only when talking about the network, or the connections between computers.

Websites, e-mail, and everything else you do in a browser fall under a different category, "the Web." But that's only about 15 percent of Internet traffic. The majority lies in various cloud services (particularly Internet video) and peer-to-peer file sharing.

These terms get a little fuzzier when websites tap into the cloud. For example, Gmail and Hotmail keep in-boxes in the cloud so that people can access their e-mail from any browser they like.

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