What the Fluff is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is the idea that online resources can expand your computing power beyond the physical limits of your personal computer. Online resources can be as simple as data storage or more complex such as full web applications.
‘The Cloud’ is a term commonly used in the computer world to simplify the near-infinite number of paths data can be sent across a large network like the Internet.
For the sake of my argument, assume that any request sent across the internet will get to its destination and correctly respond back. You ask Google’s email client, GMail, for your emails and GMail responds back with all of your online bills and cute forwards from your mom. Thanks GMail. You could make this request from your home, at work, or even from your phone while at the beach. No matter where you are, you will get the same pictures from your mom of cats & bunnies snuggling. Yay! This is Cloud Computing. No matter where you are with an internet connection, you can reach through the ‘cloud’ and touch the hand of God errrr… Google.
A wide variety of free and pay services are becoming available to us all the time. This aspect can be a blessing to IT departments who worry about expanding infrastructure & storage, while on a strict budget. The benefit of getting supercomputer power from the comfort of your personal computer does come with a major caveat to consider. Sharing resources in the cloud requires you to hand over some control to other people. If you use a site like Wikipedia to collaborate with coworkers on a document and Wikipedia stops working for some reason, you are now at the mercy of this website until it is up and running again. Another concern is privacy. When a website stores your private information, you are trusting that they will keep it secure from hackers and also not turn over that info to just anyone.
All of the positives and negatives should be considered when deciding to use a service in the cloud. The truth is that you are probably already using end user cloud computing such as an email client, Amazon, Facebook, online banking, or Twitter.