It’s everywhere. Literally.
For some, they have found the cloud to be a less than perfect place with recent stories about celebrities and their Clouds being hacked, with private photographs making their way on to certain websites and sharing platforms. Not a pleasant thought and one which raises security concerns for not just celebrities, but for all of us – companies, local online businesses and ourselves, as individuals.
But what is all this cloud thing, anyway? How do you when you are in the cloud? Is it technical or complicated? And so, with the terms cloud/cloud computing bandied about everywhere we take a look at what all the fuss is about…
What IS cloud computing?
It really is quite simple – instead of accessing and storing data and programs on your computer (that is, its hard drive), you use the Internet. In other words, the cloud is the internet and everything you want to use or store can be found there; you connect to it when you need something and it gives out what you ask for.
Local storage is…
… the term used to describe the process of saving/storing and accessing programmes or information on your hard drive. Everything you need is physically close and access to it is simple and easy. In fact, this is how many of use traditionally started to use to computers and are probably still doing so.
But, storing things through cloud computing means that no matter where you are, you can access the information or data stored there. It all sounds a bit magic and, unless you have an innate sense of the huge processing capabilities of the web, it probably is just too complicated and big to understand.
What it does off is the ability to be truly mobile when it comes to accessing information you need. Remember the day when you were at a meeting and realised you had forgotten your USB pen and you needed the information ASAP? You needed someone to email you a copy and then you needed to access your email…
You can save yourself all this stress and hassle by signing up to the many different apps, drives and programmes that allow you to log in, securely, no matter where you are. Some of these magic apps and drives – such as Google Drive – allow you to share this information with selected people, such as colleagues, friends, family etc., too hence the need to send emails with humongous attachments could also be a thing of the past.
As long as you have an internet or data connection on your smart phone etc., you can get to your stuff.
Business and individual users
Large corporations have a different type of ‘cloud’ to access to the one talked about here – cloud computing as described is the type that individuals and small, possibly medium seized entities will access. Huge companies have something slightly different but functions along similar lines called ‘software-as-a-service’ or SaaS.
There are many other examples and some business have taken the leap, with all their computing needs now being in cloud services, rather than having a room full of servers, expensive software that needs updating and a department full of IT specialists…
Some cloud examples
On one hand, we have simplified the notion of local computing and cloud computing in to two distinct separate entities, but just when you think you have a handle on it, along comes another example that blurs this distinction.
For example, with the Microsoft Office 365 programme, this is ‘loaded’ on to your machine and is therefore a local computing example BUT, as part of that package, it also utilises the Microsoft Skydrive which is a cloud-based programme.
However, here are two common cloud examples and we intend looking at various other cloud-based applications in future posts as well as …
- Google Drive – we have already mentioned this and is one that people are finding increasingly useful. You can use this on your laptop, PC, tablet, iPad smart phone along with many other devices. There are many other examples from Google including the Calendar, Reader, Voice etc.
- Apple iCloud – this has been at the centre of the very recent controversy around celebrity accounts being hacked and items, such as photos, removed and used elsewhere on the web. It can store media files, and also as a way to synchronise mail, contacts, calendars and other applications etc.
Common applications that are cloud-based that many people use are DropBox, Open Drive, SafeSync etc. But there are also many useful applications that businesses use, such as accountancy cloud packages, as well as managing projects and time – and it is these applications and platforms that we will look at in future posts!
The pros of cloud computing (this vary from business to business, and person to person… always pays to do your research as to what you could get out of each cloud service for you)
- Cost reduction – it may be possible to lower costs through opting for cloud services simply as it minimises the investment needed in both hardware, software and, in some cases, high-tech IT people; you will need far less resources to manage it.
- Use what you pay for – just like your energy bills, as a business you pay for the space you use, in some instances; if you need more, you buy more.
- Levels the IT playing field – whereas at one time, only the big hugely profitable business could afford to invest in sophisticated technology, cloud computing has made it more accessible to the smaller businesses and sole trader.
- Collaborate and communicate – there is no doubt that the greatest advantage is that businesses can collaborate and communicate so much easier across vast distance, global in fact!
But there may be some cons too…
- Availability – if the cloud service ‘goes down’, when will you able to access important information? Clearly, there needs to be a backup plan.
- Ownership – there seems to be some issues in some cases about who owns the data and what happens to it if you close the account etc. Again, this needs to be a well thought out consideration.
- Security – again, there have been questions raised recently that seem to point that nothing is safe on the web from being hacked but maybe, by following advice it is possible to make it harder for people to steal your data. However, industry experts have suggested that providers of cloud based applications need to ‘up their game’ in terms of security.
Is cloud computing for you?
It can offer many different things to different people but like all business ‘purchases’, do you research and get the right package and you too, could soon be walking with your head in the clouds!