I've recently came across an idea that mobile device icons are growing into a pictographic language of their own. For example the floppy drive can be considered a universally understood symbol for "Save" or "Save to persistent storage":

enter image description here

I'm trying to understand if there are also widely recognized symbols for:

  • Remote computer, a computer in the cloud
  • A remote server - something I'm sending my data to
  • The internet - I'm sending something to the internet.

I'm asking this in the context of developing a "remote control" application in which a user types text into a local text field and the text is sent over the internet to a remote server where the text appears in a remote text field. I'm looking for the symbols to help the users understand that transfer of information to remote server is taking place.

I'm thinking of using a series of blinking dots leading to a circle with some sort of symbol inside of it, but am not sure what that symbol should be:

enter image description here

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    the internet and cloud seem to be coinciding. What user base are you targeting? Do they even have to know that the cloud is just a pretty name for a bunch of remote computers ? – DaveAlger Dec 16 '14 at 19:21
  • The user base is really broad, this is a part of a hospital interactive system, so anyone can potentially use it. – Alex Stone Dec 16 '14 at 19:23
  • If the user base is broad then I agree with the answer below. Don't reveal what the cloud is made of at all. – DaveAlger Dec 16 '14 at 19:25
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    Icons are never universal and always open to interpretation. – Evil Closet Monkey Dec 17 '14 at 0:17

Clouds are becoming quite prevalent for "save this online".

enter image description here

You could incorporate that into your design by showing a similar icon flashing blue while it is saving, then a green check that fades away when the save is complete.

Or show an animated "..." inside the cloud, and then show a check when the save is complete.

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    Awesome, I think the arrow can also be animated! – Alex Stone Dec 16 '14 at 19:23
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    How would those two computers look like? I envisioned the old windows 95 icon, which is probably obsolete. Would those be two flat panel monitors? – Alex Stone Dec 16 '14 at 20:12
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    I would avoid showing anything that looks like a computer at all because it isn't relevant to the task at hand. The import information to communicate here is (1) there is a way to save my input to the cloud. (2) the cloud has it hooray! (3) something went wrong and the cloud didn't get it. try again? -- anything else will add friction to the UI – DaveAlger Dec 16 '14 at 20:26
  • I agree with @DaveAlger; I was thinking of the old Windows remote desktop ui (I think) where they showed something similar. The cloud is a much better concept because it is more abstract and would therefore better fit whatever context/background your users would have. – brokethebuildagain Dec 16 '14 at 20:29
  • I've edited my answer to remove the computer icon part, since the cloud is clearly the better option. – brokethebuildagain Dec 16 '14 at 20:30

I think that a flat 'earth' or 'planet' icon with an arrow would do the trick. People envision the internet as a world of data and knowledge, so this would easily tell them that this is indeed related to the internet.

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