By Kathy Green
Every day, millions of people all over the world spend time playing, shopping, chatting, e-mailing, searching and surfing the Web. In fact, the Web, Internet, or “The Cloud,” as it is often called, has been described as the quintessential expression of modern globalization. But in more definite terms, what is it?
What is the cloud?
“The cloud” actually refers to the multitude of public and private, academic, business, and government infrastructures (servers and hardware) and IT services (software and applications) that are connected through an extensive array of networking technologies and accessible by computer.
Being able to access this great ‘cloud’ of servers/software/applications is like having the ultimate supercomputer at our fingertips-information and resources any time we need them. It’s called “cloud computing”, and it has real advantages. It gives us (people and businesses) access to an almost unlimited amount of storage and computing power that can be accessed from any place in the world that has Internet connectivity. So, exactly where is it?
Where is the cloud?
This mammoth “cloud,” which supports the never-ending flow and processing of digital information, is housed on servers in blocks of office buildings and warehouses throughout the world, with the largest data centers in the US and Europe. But beyond that, location is not really important. To illustrate, let’s consider electricity. We don’t have to understand precisely how it works or know where the particular grid that services our area is located in order to have electricity. All we have to do is plug-in to an outlet, and it works! It’s the same with this shared, super-computer in “the cloud.” We don’t have to understand all the technical aspects or know where the servers are located in order to access it, all we need is a properly configured computer.
The key is access, which, aside from hardware and configuration, is governed by types of clouds-public, private, and hybrid. Email is an example of a public cloud service. When you access your email account, you are accessing secure servers that have been set up to host email services for your particular provider and made available to you-the public. Conversely, private clouds are built exclusively for an individual enterprise, allowing access to only a select group of individuals (e.g. employees, customers, etc.). Hybrid clouds, on the other hand, offer increased flexibility by combining elements of both public and private clouds.
How can you benefit from the cloud?
Different clouds (within “The Cloud”) do different things. For instance, the Facebook “cloud” enables you to give yourself an online identity and connect to friends and family; Google Apps, a cloud-based productivity suite, is designed for business operations, and Amazon’s Kindle cloud computer provide storage and syncing for ebooks. Some of these clouds are free and some are not. How you use “The cloud” depends on what you want to do.
For most of us, cloud computing has become and integral part of daily life. We used the cloud to store data, in case our laptop or smart phone is lost, gets stolen, or becomes damaged. We use the cloud to auto-synchronize things like email, pictures, music and contacts between our devices. And because cloud computing can maximize accessibility and increase our bottom line by reducing equipment acquisition, management, and operating costs, we use it for business.
So what can you do in “the cloud”?
We say “The sky’s the limit!”