Simply put, the cloud is really the Internet especially when you use it for tasks that can be carried out by local software and hardware.
For example, if you back files to your hard drive, then that’s local. However, if you use Dropbox or any other online storage service, you’re using the cloud.
Another clearer example would be that of Outlook. If you are using the email client on your desktop, that is local. However, if you are using webmail in the form of Outlook.com, then you’re checking email in the cloud.
Even though the word ‘cloud’ suggests that it isn’t real, this is anything but true since your data, which you’ve saved in Dropbox or even Google Drive, is stored on a server somewhere.
Even this does seem promising, the problem of backing your data up can be tedious in the cloud as it is limited to the speed of your internet connection. Locally, backing your data is much faster as you would have noticed.
As for the price, while there are a number of free cloud storage services available, you will have to work within restrictions. For example, you get 2 GB of free storage with MozyHome but will have to pay $120 annually if you want 125 GB of space. Buying an external hard drive for $50-$80 for 1 TB should work out cheaper.
Finally, there’s the issue of privacy and security. If you don’t encrypt your files before uploading, you will have to assume that someone will be reading the information on your files including the service provider, government or even illegal hackers.