What Exactly Does the Cloud Look Like?

Most Internet users know the cloud as a place where files are stored digitally instead of on a physical device, like a computer’s hard drive, but what exactly does it look like? Despite the nickname, the cloud is not a mass in the sky. Cloud computing providers have large server rooms (or “farms”), like the one above, which hold your data so you don’t have to.

From the outside, the farms are not that exciting architecturally, but the interiors are mazes of incredible amounts of data. Like massive libraries that stock electronics instead of books, these farms contain row after row of blinking server racks with cables connecting them, as seen in the video above from CNN Money. Those racks are flanked by cooling systems because servers run hot, especially when there are thousands of them in an enclosed space.

The data centers used by some of the biggest companies—Facebook, Google, and Apple—are scattered across the world. One of Facebook's farms sits atop a hill in the small town of Prineville, Oregon and spans 147,000 square feet. Apple has a 200-acre data center located in North Carolina, where the company also built the nation's largest privately owned solar farm to run it (data centers use an estimated two percent of the country's electricity).

Curious about where Google Cloud lives? Check out the company's website, which shows exactly where its data centers are located—including St. Ghislain, Belgium; Changhua County, Taiwan; and Council Bluffs, Iowa—and how they are used.

According to CNN Money, 320 million people use iCloud—the cloud computing service launched by Apple in 2011—and over 400 billion Facebook photos are housed in cloud storage, with an additional 350 million added every day. To keep up with the growing demand, more companies are investing heavily in the cloud and server farms are getting larger. In fact, some predict that by 2020, the cloud will be a $191 billion market (up from the $100 billion the industry is currently worth, according to CNN Money.)

While there is nothing fluffy about the hardware that makes the cloud possible, it does owe its name to the sun-blockers above. The term “the cloud” is believed to stem from a patent filed in 1994 for a “network having secure fast packet switching and guaranteed quality of service,” in which the authors included a diagram of the system with a bubble around the “network.” As the patents evolved, the crude bubble shape became more like cloud-like, and according to Technology Review, “cloud computing” was first used in a 1996 business plan for the Compaq computer company. Check out the video from CNN Money for more about what the cloud looks like.

[h/t: CNN Money]

Header image via iStock.

© 2017 USPS
Pop Culture
Speedy Delivery: Mister Rogers Will Get His Own Stamp in 2018
© 2017 USPS
© 2017 USPS

USPS 2018 Mister Rogers stamp
© 2017 USPS

After weeks of mailing out this year’s holiday cards, postage might be the last thing you want to think about. But the U.S. Postal Service has just given us a sneak peek at the many iconic people, places, and things that will be commemorated with their own stamps in 2018, and one in particular has us excited to send out a few birthday cards: Mister Rogers.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers’s groundbreaking PBS series that the USPS says “inspired and educated young viewers with warmth, sensitivity, and honesty,” the mail service shared a mockup of what the final stamp may look like. On it, Rogers—decked out in one of his trademark colorful cardigans (all of which were hand-knitted by his mom, by the way)—smiles for the camera alongside King Friday XIII, ruler of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Though no official release date for Fred’s forever stamp has been given, Mister Rogers is just one of many legendary figures whose visages will grace a piece of postage in 2018. Singer/activist Lena Horne will be the 41st figure to appear as part of the USPS’s Black Heritage series, while former Beatle John Lennon will be the face of the newest Music Icons collection. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, will also be honored.

Can You Spot the Christmas Pudding?

Whether it’s a sheep hanging out with Santa Claus or a panda bear hiding among some snowmen, regular Mental Floss readers know that hidden picture brainteasers are one of our favorite things. And the optical experts at have released a delicious one, just in time for Christmas. Somewhere in the midst of all these holiday-themed goodies above, there’s a holiday pudding just waiting to be discovered. Can you spot it? Your time starts … now.

If you give up, or are the kind of person who reads the last page of a book before the first one and just wants to know the answer, scroll down to see where it’s hiding.



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