What is the cloud? Where is the cloud? These are questions you’ve probably heard or even asked yourself. The term “cloud computing” is everywhere.
In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer’s hard drive. The cloud is just a metaphor for the Internet.
What cloud computing is not about is your hard drive. When you store data on or run programs from the hard drive, that’s called local storage and computing. Everything you need is physically close to you, which means accessing your data is fast and easy, for that one computer, or others on the local network.
The cloud is also not about having a dedicated network attached storage (NAS) hardware or server in residence. Storing data on a home or office network does not count as utilising the cloud. For it to be considered “cloud computing,” you need to access your data or your programs over the Internet, or at the very least, have that data synced with other information over the Web. In a big business, you may know all there is to know about what’s on the other side of the connection; as an individual user, you may never have any idea what kind of massive data processing is happening on the other end. The end result is the same: with an online connection, cloud computing can be done anywhere, anytime.
There is an entirely different “cloud” when it comes to business. Some businesses choose to implement Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), where the business subscribes to an application it accesses over the Internet. There’s also Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), where a business can create its own custom applications for use by all in the company. And don’t forget the mighty Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), where players like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Rack space provide a backbone that can be “rented out” by other companies. (For example, Netflix provides services because it’s a customer of the cloud services at Amazon.)
Some examples of cloud computing are:
Google Drive: This is a pure cloud computing service, with all the storage found online so it can work with the cloud apps: Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides. Drive is also available on more than just desktop computers; you can use it on tablets like the iPad or on smart phones, and there are separate apps for Docs and Sheets, as well. In fact, most of Google’s services could be considered cloud computing: Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, and so on.
Apple iCloud: Apple’s cloud service is primarily used for online storage, backup, and synchronization of your mail, contacts, calendar, and more. All the data you need is available to you on your iOS, Mac OS, or Windows device
Amazon Cloud Drive: Storage at the big retailer is mainly for music, preferably MP3s that you purchase from Amazon and images—if you have Amazon Prime, you get unlimited image storage. Amazon Cloud Drive also holds anything you buy for the Kindle. It’s essentially storage for anything digital you’d buy from Amazon, baked into all its products and services.
Hybrid services like Box, Drop box, and Sugar Sync all say they work in the cloud because they store a synced version of your files online, but they also sync those files with local storage. Synchronization is a cornerstone of the cloud computing experience, even if you do access the file locally.
If you’re looking for advice on Cloud technology, Intellect IT is experts at Business IT Solutions in Melbourne, and we’d welcome a discussion with you and your team.