I'm hearing the term Cloud Computing more and more. One friend told me that it means computers will soon not need a hard drive. Is that correct?
What is Cloud Computing?
There's a silver lining of truth in that statement, but you won't have to part with your beloved hard drive any time soon. Cloud Computing is the idea of accessing files, software and computing services through the Internet instead of on your personal computer. In the simplest of terms, if your software or your files are "somewhere out there" instead of on your computer's hard drive, you're using Cloud Computing services.
The Cloud is the Internet, and one of the primary benefits of Cloud Computing is the ability to create, update and store your files through any computer that has access to the web.
The concept isn't new. For years, many people have accessed their email via a web browser, using services such as Hotmail and Gmail. And it's something that many software developers are taking into consideration when developing new applications.
Examples of Cloud Computing
In addition to web-based email, some online services have started expanding their offerings by providing word processing and other office applications online. Google Docs is one example, which offers web-based word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and calendaring functions.
All you need is access to the Internet, and you can create and store files in these Cloud-based applications. Documents and presentations can be uploaded from your hard drive and stored on the Web, allowing you to freedom to access them from any computer, and collaborate with other users, without having multiple copies of the document spread around different computers.
You may already be using Cloud Computing, and not know it. If you're storing your photos online via Flickr or Photobucket, you're in the Cloud. The same thing applies to video hosting sites such as YouTube, as well as online backup service like Carbonite.
Other software companies are already working on the idea of Cloud Computing, as an alternative to the traditional method of downloading or installing software on a hard drive. Some accounting software makers now have applications that are web-based. You simply enter a user name and password in order to get access to your accounting files. Examples of companies that do this are Quickbooks and Peachtree.
The Benefits of Cloud Computing
For everday users, Cloud Computing is one way to save space on your computer, and eliminate the hassle of installing and maintaining software. It's likely that the concept of Cloud Computing will someday eliminate the need to store software on your computer. The computer of the future might only need a web browser, and a hard drive could become an optional feature.
An interesting side effect might be that your choice of operating system becomes almost irrelevant. Who cares if your computer is running Mac OS X, Linux or Windows under the hood, when everything is happening inside the web browser?
Cloud Computing would make it easier for software companies to provide access to their software, instead of having customers worry about installation, operating systems and computer requirements. People would no longer have to worry about whether a piece of software would work on their computer. Companies delivering software as a service would also save money by eliminating CD-ROMs, paper documentation and packaging.
And if you're a web developer, you can also take advantage of Cloud Computing services like Akamai or Amazon's EC2 that offer flexible, scalable and economical web hosting and computing services.
The Down Side to Cloud Computing
Unfortunately, Cloud Computing might also be costly to consumers. Although some web-based apps are free, it's expected that some applications will require a monthly or yearly fee. In the end, these fees might add up to more than what you would pay to download and install the software to your computer.
There is also the concern of not being able to work on your files when you do not have access to the Internet. Business travelers may have to take this into consideration when deciding to use software online or offline.
Security is another issue. In Cloud Computing, your files are stored on a remote server, instead of within the privacy of your own home computer. Although your data is protected by a username and password, some worry that files will be more accessable to hackers, or that glitches on the part of the software company may expose private information. The flipside of this concern is that many home computers are easily compromised, due to viruses, spyware and botnets.
Still, software companies are changing gears and giving people the opportunity to use their services online. Users are starting to reconsider their ideas of what they actually need to install on their computer, and what they can comfortably store online. Are you using Cloud Computing? Post a comment with your experiences, questions or concerns...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 26 Nov 2008
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Cloud Computing (Posted: 26 Nov 2008)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved