You might know what the cloud does, but do you know what the cloud is?

In simple terms, cloud computing is a way of storing, accessing, and syncing data and software through the internet instead of your local computer hard drive. The ‘cloud’ is actually a global network of servers. To say those servers host massive amounts of data is an understatement.

Through web-based tools and applications, information is accessible anytime from any device with internet access and can be shared with others as you choose. Have a Gmail account? Your web-based email system is in the cloud. Share business documents with colleagues via Dropbox or Google Docs? That’s the cloud.

According to a 2016 study, the big data and business analytics industry is expected to grow 56% and become a $203 billion market by 2020.

Backup your phone’s photos and videos? Stored in the cloud. Netflix? You guessed it – they host their video content on Amazon Web Services, aka the cloud.

The cloud takes shape

The cloud isn’t only about data storage. Cloud-based applications have transformed the way we do business. Remember the days when email chains included twenty different versions of the same document, all at various stages in the editing process? As part of a whole suite of cloud-based applications, Google Docs allows users to collaborate and work simultaneously, showing real-time updates from anywhere in the world.

The cloud isn’t only about data storage. Cloud-based applications have transformed the way we do business.

Businesses that leverage big data use the cloud to capture, organize, and analyze massive data sets, something that was not possible before the cloud. According to a 2016 study, the big data and business analytics industry is expected to grow 56% and become a $203 billion market by 2020. In 2016, the banking industry led the way, investing almost $17 billion in software for risk management and fraud prevention.

Salesforce, Netflix, and Facebook don’t offer cloud services, but they rely on the cloud to provide their service to you

It takes more than just computer software companies to make the cloud possible. Sure, there are the pure play cloud computing companies that offer direct services such as network hardware and software, internet marketing and services, IT support, communications equipment, storage, and peripherals.

But there’s also non-pure players, like Salesforce, Netflix, and Facebook. They don’t offer cloud services, but they rely on the cloud to provide their service to you.

The technology behind cloud computing was first developed in the 1950s, but what we have come to know as ‘the cloud’ didn’t take shape until the turn of the 21st century when Salesforce stopped selling its software on disc and started providing their applications via the web.

If you think the best is yet to come with cloud technology, then consider an investment in an ETF on Stash that’s all about the cloud.

What’s inside On Cloud 9?

This investment (Ticker: SKYY) includes cloud computing companies – both pure play and non-pure play alike. Remember, pure play means the company actively supports and forms the cloud, and non-pure play companies utilize the cloud to provide their service.

  • Tech hardware companies like Netapp and Hewlett Packard that create the systems and the equipment
  • Software masters like Microsoft, Oracle, and Adobe
  • Industry giants like Amazon and Apple that provide cloud storage data centers
  • Companies like Google that provide industry-leading cloud-based applications
  • And yes, even social media giants like Facebook and providers like Netflix who rely on the cloud to enable your binge-watching marathons.

At the time of this post, On Cloud 9 includes 33 companies. On Cloud 9 is ‘The First Trust ISE Cloud Computing Index Fund’ (SKYY) and has a 0.60% expense ratio.

Is the sky the limit?

What’s next in the world of cloud computing? More mobile capabilities, wearable technology, machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence). The Internet of Things (IoT), where machines connect to other machines and sensors, gathering data and leveraging it thanks to cloud computing, will one day revolutionize everything from smart refrigerators to smart stethoscopes to smart roads, bridges, and cars.

The cloud has the potential to touch almost everything we do – and companies of all sizes, including those that are still only an idea, will use the cloud to grow bigger, faster, and more innovative.

If you think that we’re just getting started, consider an investment in On Cloud 9.