How Does Cloud Storage Work? A Guide for Beginners

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Aditya Rayaprolu
Written by
Aditya Rayaprolu

Updated · Sep 15, 2023

Aditya Rayaprolu
Technology Architect | McKinsey & Company | Joined February 2023 | LinkedIn
Aditya Rayaprolu

Aditya is an Azure DevOps and Infrastructure Virtualization Architect with experience in automation,... | See full bio

April Grace Asgapo
Edited by
April Grace Asgapo


April Grace Asgapo
Joined June 2023 | LinkedIn
April Grace Asgapo

April is a proficient content writer with a knack for research and communication. With a keen eye fo... | See full bio

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Cloud storage has rapidly gained traction in recent years. In 2021 alone, over 1.8 zettabytes or 1.8 trillion gigabytes of data was stored in the cloud.

Gone are the days of relying on physical storage devices like hard drives and external storage. Using clouds, remote servers take the stage, ensuring your precious files and applications are always at your fingertips.

So, how does cloud storage work? Read on to explore the inner workings of this storage system–– the digital sanctuary for your precious data!

Cloud Storage: Understanding How It Works

When you keep files on your computer, they stay on the hard drive or on other devices like USB drives. However, cloud storage works differently. It enables client computers or mobile devices to upload, save, and retrieve files using remote servers.

To ensure reliability, the same data is typically stored on multiple servers simultaneously. This way, clients can access their data even if one server is down.

In short, cloud storage is like a hard drive without bulky hardware. You can use it whenever and wherever, as long as you have Internet access.

💡 Did You Know?

The term “cloud” was first coined in 1996 by a small group of tech executives. MIT Technology Review traced the coinage to an old business plan by Compaq Computer, an IT company founded in 1982. Their report proves that it wasn’t Google’s Eric Schmidt who first used the word cloud.

 Cloud storage systems can be categorized into different access models:

Private Cloud Storage

Also known as Enterprise or Internal Cloud Storage, this system is housed within a company or organization’s intranet. The company’s own cybersecurity infrastructure protects all the data saved. 

A private cloud storage solution also offers users complete control over their data. However, it’s costly and needs regular maintenance. 

Public  Cloud Storage

A public cloud storage solution is the opposite of its privately owned counterpart. It’s cheap and maintained only by the service provider. 

This shared storage is easily accessible, allowing users to enter through web browsers on any device. Users can also grant others access to their data without tweaking complex administrative tools.

Hybrid Cloud Storage

This service combines public and private cloud storage. It’s shared by multiple users or organizations and hosted by a provider. 

Hybrid cloud storage only allows partial control of the saved data, as some files are placed in a shared environment.

Multi-Cloud Storage

Multi-Cloud Storage occurs when several providers are used at the same time. Instead of relying on just one company, different services like AWS (Amazon Web Services), Google Drive, and Microsoft Azure are used. 

Multi-cloud storage speeds up data across different systems, which is good for backing up files and avoiding downtime.

🎉 Fun Fact:

Amazon owns the biggest cloud storage in the world. Its subsidiary company, AWS, supports a staggering 65,940,013 websites across 245 countries worldwide.

AWS, Google Drive, and Azure also offer different storage formats that cater to unique needs. These are block, object, and file storage. Each one is discussed in the next section below.

Types of Cloud Storage

Cloud Storage types include block, object, and file storage

Storage solutions aren’t just classified according to access. They’re also grouped into commonly used formats that organize and present data differently. 

Selecting the most appropriate storage format is crucial for optimizing data management. Here they are:

Block Storage

In Block storage, files are divided into fixed-sized blocks with individual addresses. When you access your files, the system combines the blocks to get them. 

This storage format doesn’t rely on a traditional filing system. It’s more like a library where you don’t have to use a catalog to find a book because you already know its exact location. So, block storage is a faster and more reliable way to save and manage data.

Object Storage

This type of cloud storage runs without a file system, which makes it perfect for managing large volumes of data. 

Object storage organizes data as “objects”. It then pairs each one with metadata and a unique identifier to locate it. It’s best suited for:

  • unstructured data
  • multimedia
  • backups
  • archives

File Storage

File storage is the most widely used format. It stores data on remote servers and offers convenience and scalability for secure and easy file access. As a result, any user with an internet connection can upload, manage, and retrieve files from their file storage anywhere.

Examples of file cloud storage include Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive.

✅ Pro Tip:

Aside from offering a storage solution, Google Drive also provides a practical means of sharing large files that are notoriously difficult to move.

Use Cases of Cloud Storage

Hard drives are diminishing, slowly being replaced by technologies like cloud storage.

According to cloud computing statistics, global spending on public cloud services grew to $592 billion in 2023. Additionally, 60% of companies now leverage virtual collaboration tools enabled by cloud services.

Cloud storage’s ever-increasing value in the workplace and everyday life has made it a prerequisite in many devices. Below are real-life cases demonstrating cloud storage’s benefits.


Cloud storage is a simple way for Android users to keep, access, and share files. It backs up camera rolls automatically, freeing your phone’s storage space and allowing you to recover lost files. 

Android cloud storage solutions also protect your data from cyberattacks better than your personal device can.


Apple's iCloud service also saves, backs up, and restores files. Each user receives a free and upgradable 5GB of storage space to store contact lists, photos, calendar details, and more.

Additionally, iCloud locates lost devices. It helps you track your phone or Mac using GPS, lock it using “lost mode,” or activate a loud alarm.


Aside from storing and managing data, cloud services help teams work together. Cloud-based collaboration tools like Google Workspace, Zoom, and Slack allow users to communicate, track workflows, delegate tasks, and share files online.

Security Cameras

Rather than depending on on-site hardware, CCTV camera data is securely transmitted to a cloud-based storage site. This process allows authorized users to access the data from any location using any internet-connected mobile or fixed device.

PlayStation 5

Cloud storage works with game consoles to save games and free the hard drive of lag-inducing data. It also lets you switch to other consoles without losing your progress.

🎉 Fun Fact:

PlayStation 5 doesn’t just utilize cloud storage. The mega-popular console has 4K compatibility and the latest HDR and SSD, which explains why PS5 is so expensive.

Cloud Storage’s Advantages and Disadvantages

Cloud storage has good and bad sides that impact user experience and  data security. Learning about these helps you make smart decisions on which service to choose.

Cloud Storage Advantages

Choosing clouds over local data storage gives you these advantages:

  • Cost saving. In the long run, cloud storage solutions are less costly because they don’t need expensive hardware or regular maintenance.
  • Disaster recovery. When your device fails, anything stored in the cloud is not affected. Your files are safe and retrievable.
  • Scalability. You can add or remove storage space, depending on your needs.
  • Accessibility. Cloud storage helps remote and hybrid working setups, as it’s accessible from anywhere.
  • Better security. This service can keep your data safe and private as storage providers use reliable cybersecurity systems.

Disadvantages of Cloud Storage

Cloud storage may offer many benefits, but it has its share of disadvantages, too. So, before purchasing a subscription, here are some drawbacks you should be aware of:

  • Internet dependency. One of cloud storage’s most significant downsides is its Internet-based nature. While apps like Google Docs and Google Drive allow you to work offline, servers still require an internet connection to save data.
  • Migration issues. Since it’s heavily internet-dependent, cloud storage needs a fast connection to operate at maximum capacity. Hence, moving volumes of data can be challenging and time-consuming.
  • Vulnerability. Using a cloud storage solution means sharing control with the provider. You’d have to trust that this company will truly keep your data private and secure.
  • Lack of absolute control. Providers don’t grant users full customization, security management, and maintenance, so you have little control over your cloud storage. 

🔓 Security Note:

Even if you have minimum control over your data, storing them in a cloud service is much safer than on a hard drive. 

In 2019, rampant data breaches forced cloud computing companies to raise their cybersecurity spending by 57%. That trend has not changed, so these companies now have more advanced security infrastructures to protect your files.


Cloud storage is revolutionizing how users keep data, offering convenience and security without bulky hardware. With it, you can save, manage, and access terabytes of files using just your laptop.

Despite a few drawbacks, cloud storage’s benefits far outweigh the potential costs. All in all, it greatly enhances your computing experience, so it’s something most people should consider using.


Does cloud storage free up space?

Yes, cloud storage eliminates unused disk space on your device, and it doesn’t require the physical storage of local devices.

How do I store files in the cloud?

You can start with a service such as Google Drive or Dropbox. Go to their websites or download their apps. You can start uploading files after getting a subscription.

What happens when something is stored in the cloud?

The cloud service provider sends an uploaded item to remote servers. The data is stored on these servers and managed so users can access it from any connected device.


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