What is the Cloud?

New York City Clouds

I hear people flippantly tossing the term Cloud Computing, Cloud Storage and Software as a Service (SaaS) around business meetings, around the office and around the elevator.  This bothers me because I feel no one really knows what the cloud is.  I get the sense people use it to sound intelligent or vogue but they really have no idea what it is.

It’s funny.  It’s almost as if some people think that using geeky vernacular will make them appear smart; however, the opposite almost always happens:  ultimately they end up looking uncouth and uneducated.

Today, I felt compelled to demystify the jargon surrounding cloud computing so you can know the facts.  After reading this article you’ll know exactly what the cloud is and why it matters.

The good news is the Cloud is easy to understand; in fact, you already leverage Cloud technologies whenever you use web applications such as Google Docs, Dropbox, Evernote and Facebook.

1. What is the Cloud?

Simply put, the cloud refers to remote storage.

The cloud is just a collection of networked servers that communicate with computers, tablets and smartphones using the internet as a transport medium.  We refer to this group of servers as a cloud because in the early days of the internet people would often draw a cloud as a symbol for the internet; this was a lot easier than drawing millions of little boxes to represent the convoluted architecture of the web.

2. Why it Matters

Cloud technologies make it really easy to deploy and use shared web applications.  For example, in a corporate environment, IT no longer has to install the same application on multiple devices because anyone can access that application from any device with a network connection.

I think cloud storage really takes data storage to new heights.  Instead of saving all your files, photos, documents, music and videos to a CD, DVD, or external hard drive you can now easily save your valuable content to a cloud service and get the added benefit of ubiquitous access, data resilience, and automatic backups.

Since all your data syncs with the cloud, it lives in two locations: the computer where you originally saved your work and the remote server.  You can retrieve your data anytime you want which can give you piece of mind when your local hard drive crashes.

Notice I said when and not if.  The drive will inevitably fail especially if you’re running Windows XP or don’t have a solid state drive so cloud storage is a smart backup option.

The other nice thing about cloud is that its very hands off.  Configuration is minimal at worse or zero at best.  Usually you just sign-in to the cloud service and it runs in the background automatically synchronizing data between your computer and the server.

On the flip side, without an internet connection you can’t access your data, but given both the high availability of free public Wi-Fi and the increasing speed of cellular technologies, not having an internet connection will soon be like not having an electrical outlet.

The Bottom Line

The cloud is internet storage and is becoming increasingly ascendant because of its ease of use, widespread availability and built in security mechanisms.  In fact, according to Gartner, the cloud services market is expected to grow to 61% from 2010 through 2016.  Western Europe follows at 17% for the same period so it’s a good thing you know a little more about it now.

 

 

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