Tech Talk: What Can Cloud Do For You?
The computer term “cloud” has been floating around (pun intended) for decades, but has become a part of our regular vernacular just in the last ten years. The concept dates back to the 1960s when clouds were used on flowcharts to symbolize the internet. It would not be until 2006, however, when the then-CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, is credited with the first public use of the phrase at a search engine conference. Since then, it has become a household term in many ways, but do you really know what it is and what it can do for you?
What It Is
The official definition, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, is “a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing recourse (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.” In English, this means it enables you to access your data and applications anytime from any device with internet access.
Most Popular Services
For the average personal user, the most popular use of the cloud is to store and back-up data. The most popular services such as Dropbox and Google Drive can be accessed through a browser or installed directly on your machine. The services themselves usually start with free accounts that increase incrementally as your storage needs increase. If you install them directly onto your computer, you access and edit the files the same as you would with any other file saved on your computer. Every time your device is connected to the internet, the files are saved to a remote server. In addition to the increased access and security, the other major benefit of cloud computing is the ability for multiple people to access and share files. For example, if you went on vacation with a group, you could upload your digital photos to a folder in the cloud. You could then copy the link to that folder and send it to your friends. Each of them could then access the folder through any web browser. No more passing along physical flash drives or having to upload every photo to social media in order to distribute them.
The other popular use of the cloud is for software. Back in the “pre-cloud” days, a purchase of software included buying a physical CD-ROM. Today, you go to the software developers’ website, such as Microsoft or Adobe, and you purchase a subscription to use cloud-based software. In addition to eliminating the CD-ROM installation process, and possibility of losing the CD, this also means you do not need to update your software. The software automatically updates as the developers make changes, so you are always using the most up-to-date version.
At the end of the day, cloud computing is here to stay and is having huge effects on the convenience, security, affordability and availability of digital tools and data.