Cloud computing simply means storing and accessing your data and programs over the internet; it allows you to access your data and information, wherever, whenever and however you want it, most cloud based services have high availability meaning you can access them 24/7 with little or no downtime at all; the cloud is just a metaphor for the internet. Cloud computing is not about your hard drive; when you store data and programs on your hard drive you are storing them locally, what’s known as local storage or computing. Everything you need to access is physically close to you, which means accessing it is fast and easy and that is how the computer industry has functioned for decades.
The cloud is also not about having a dedicated network attached storage device (NAS), storing data on a home or office network does not count as utilizing the cloud. For it to be considered cloud computing you need to access your data and programs via the internet. As an individual user you probably never know the kinds of huge data processes that is happening at the other end but the end result is the same; with an online connection you can cloud compute from anywhere at any time.
Examples of cloud computing
There are many example of cloud computing nowadays and the line between local computing and cloud computing can become blurry. That is because you can easily have a local piece of software for example Office 365 installed on your PC that utilizes a form of cloud computing for storing data – Microsoft OneDrive.
Microsoft offers web apps called Office Online, that are online versions of Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Excel that you access using your web browser without having to install anything making this a form of cloud computing.
Another example of cloud computing would be Apples iCloud. This service is mainly used for online storage and backup and allows you to synchronize you data such as, mail, contacts, calendars and more between your Apple devices and you can access this data through a Windows machine providing you have installed iCloud control panel. It also offers cloud based versions of its spreadsheet app (Numbers), word processing (Pages) and its presentation app (Keynote) for use by any iCloud subscriber.
Advantages and disadvantages of cloud computing
A major advantage of cloud computing is backup and recovery. As your data is stored in the cloud, backing up and restoring files is relatively simple and cloud service providers are usually good in providing recovery solutions should you ever need to use it.
Another advantage of cloud computing is the ease of access. Once you have signed up to a service you can login and access you data from anywhere and at any time providing you have access to the internet. They also have high availability meaning that you can access the service pretty much 24/7. This is very convenient if you travel a lot for example for business. You can simply login and all your data is there as if you were in the office.
Additionally another advantage of cloud computing is the cost savings. Your business could save a substantial amount of money with no in-house server storage and application. Also the lack of having an onsite infrastructure gets rid of the associated operational costs such as the power it uses, air conditioning and even the administration costs.
A further advantage to this type of computing is that most cloud based application allow you to synchronize your information between different devices such as laptops and handheld devices, which means that you can have the same information on every platform that you have access to. For example if you were to update a document on your mobile device whilst you were out, you could then return to your home or workplace and have the same updated document there as well, essentially accessing your information wherever, whenever and on any device you wish to view it on.
However there are also some disadvantages of cloud computing, one being technical issues. Although you could access your data and programs at anytime from anywhere, there may be some times where the system may malfunction. Any kind of technology is prone to malfunction and down time and this includes cloud computing. Generally most companies that offer cloud computing have high availability meaning that you can access your data 24/7 but sometimes even the best providers of this service may experience technical issues which are out of their control and this could leave you unable to access your information for a short period.
Another disadvantage of this service is that it could be prone to attack. By storing your data in the cloud it could make your company vulnerable to attacks as nothing on the internet is completely secure and therefore there is always a slight possibility of this happening. For example where there are multiple users hosted on the same server, one user could try and break in and access the data of another user. However exploits and loopholes like this are unlikely to surface; generally the likelihood of a compromise like this is not great and most companies that offer a cloud service would have a system in place to prevent a compromise happening.
Cloud computing has its pros and cons and is still in its infant age but is growing. It has great potential and more and more companies are steering towards using it, offering better and more finely tuned solutions and services. While this type of technology can prove to be a very good asset to your business you should consult a specialist such as VooServers prior to installation to ensure the full capabilities of the cloud are enabled and any security implications are addressed.
By Fahad Khan on May 5th, 2015