You’ve heard of people storing their images and files in the cloud. At work, they might tell you that the software you are using is in the cloud. Almost everything seems to be moving to the cloud.
But what is a cloud? And how do you get the most out of it?
What is the cloud?
How do you define something ambiguous? Since at least 1977, when the computer network was drawn, the cloud icon has been used to represent unknown resources outside of the immediate network. You know it is there, you just cannot see it inside like a real cloud in the sky. It is often just an Internet connection.
This is really what the cloud is – the Internet and everything it connects to that you don’t have in your home or office. You may have heard someone say, “The cloud is just someone else’s computer.” This is not far from the truth. It is more computers, servers, routers, switches and all kinds of technologies. This is all that makes the Internet work, and then some.
Where did the cloud come from?
Depending on how old you are, you might have heard of time-sharing on mainframes. This is what started in the 1960s. You can submit a task to the mainframe. The mainframe was doing the job when it wasn’t doing someone else’s work.
It may take minutes, days, or weeks before the mainframe has an open time slot. They were massive and powerful for the time, but very weak compared even to the computers of the 1980s.
When the personal computer came along, mainframe computing became less relevant. It was easier, faster and cheaper to run programs right on the desktop. But that was just a cut in network computing. The internet will change all of this.
As networking and computing technology became cheaper, tech companies began offering mainframe-like services again. Everyone has already used the Internet, why not make all the work out of it?
Companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Google have built huge warehouses filled with powerful servers. They created amazing programs based on them that we could use at home. Internet speed has changed from drizzle from the tap to torrent from the fire department. It was too big, too fast and too full of possibilities to describe it all, so it was called a cloud.
What can I do with the cloud?
If you are reading this, then you are already using it. There is cloud storage, cloud computing and cloud infrastructure. What can’t you do with the cloud? To get the most out of the cloud, you need to have a good understanding of these things and what services are available to help you get the most out of them.
What is cloud storage?
Where you could have stored all your files on your computer or external hard drive, there are companies that provide storage on their servers. They will have a download app that will keep your files backed up in the cloud with no problem and give you instant access to them.
The advantage of cloud storage is that in the event of a computer failure, you will still have access to all your old files, images and videos. The downside is that there is usually a subscription fee.
There are several that offer free accounts with some restrictions. You can pay to upgrade these plans if you like. Google Drive offers 15 GB for free. Microsoft OneDrive and Apple iCloud offer 5GB of free storage.
What is cloud computing?
Instead of programs running on your local computer, cloud computing means that you are running programs that are somewhere on the Internet.
You can see everything that happens on your computer, but the real action takes place on a server that may be thousands of miles away. It’s like watching the news. You see it locally on TV, but all the work of the announcer, meteorologist and cameramen is somewhere in the studio. The TV is just your window into it.
Anything you can do with a computer can be done with cloud services. If you’ve used things like Google Docs, Microsoft Office 365, Apple iCloud, or any free email service, then you’ve used cloud computing. You can also create professional music, video chat, share your screen with other people, and more.
What is Cloud Infrastructure?
Similar to the remote servers that run your software, remote servers can also act as the hardware and parts that make up the network. The average home user probably doesn’t need the cloud infrastructure, but it’s good to know that it is.
Here’s an example of how cloud infrastructure can help you. Imagine what you think about buying a Mac. But you’ve never used it. That’s a lot of money to spend on things you’re not sure about. There are things like cloud-based Macs You access a server running virtual Macs and use it like a Mac sitting on your desk.
You can also use the cloud as your personal media server to watch movies and TV shows, and listen to music from any computer in the world. Plex Media Server is a great example.
How do I get the most out of the cloud?
Reading articles like this is the first step. Find out what services are available to you. Think about what you are doing on your computer, and then look to see if there is a cloud service for the same.
Compare the pros and cons of this service with what you are already doing. Which is cheaper? What features do you need? Who do you trust? When you start asking these questions, you will find the best combination of your computer and the cloud.