What/Where is “The Cloud”?

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Cloud Computing

Exactly what is the cloud? Where is the cloud? Sometimes the technology world moves so fast that we start seeing, hearing, and sometimes even using buzzwords before we really understand what they mean. Case in point: The cloud. In 270net we often receive questions from clients and potential clients asking, “What can the cloud do for us?” “Would the cloud fix this?” “My computer died. Instead of buying a new one, can I just use the cloud?” As with a literal cloud, “the cloud” can be a bit hard to grasp.

The cloud is essentially a metaphor for the Internet. Instead of storing your data and applications on your computer’s hard drive, you are storing and accessing it over the Internet. For instance, if you take a picture with a digital camera, the picture is only available to view or use on the camera itself because it is saved on the camera’s memory card. Now take a picture using a smart phone with an Internet connection. The picture is automatically stored online and is instantly available from any device that also has Internet access and the right password. This same concept is applicable to all types of data that can now be uploaded, stored, interacted with, and shared through the Internet. With Google Docs I can work from home and anytime a boss or coworker needs to see or use the same document, the most recent version is also available at their fingertips online. With iCloud I have instant access to my iTunes library with over 9,000 songs anywhere the Internet is. Documents, databases, images, music libraries, videos… all are available instantly from relatively anywhere. You start to get any idea where the buzz is coming from.

But it doesn’t stop there. Besides data, the cloud is also changing the world of applications. We now have software, such as Microsoft Office 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud, that are subscription-based applications useable and accessible anywhere through the Internet. This has huge implications, especially in the business world, where instead of purchasing the same program for everyone in your office, you can simply buy each employee a subscription and they can start using it without installing physical software.

The simple reality of “the cloud” is that it is not one single thing, as indicated by the article “the”. Rather, it is a catchall phrase for remotely hosted files, or files stored anywhere besides on your own device, and accessible through the Internet. If 270net hosts you website, then our server is your “cloud”. If you use Gmail to send and receive emails, Google’s server is your cloud.

These concepts have been around since the invention of the Internet, but the buzz about cloud computing has gotten ever louder in the last few years as Internet speeds increased and devices with access to the Internet multiplied. These two factors make cloud computing ever more useful and convenient. Call it what you will, “the cloud” is here to stay.

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