What is Cloud Computing and why is it Important?
Cloud computing has been one of the buzzwords in technology circles over the past few years. Indeed, at one point, so shrill were enthusiasts about the cloud that one would have thought that the whole world was in danger of being swept away. So, what does the term cloud computing really mean, and what are its applications? Are there, in any way advantages and disadvantages that accrue from doing things from the cloud, and what are some of the famous applications that already use cloud computing?
Cloud Computing Definition?
The term Cloud Computing refers to the process by which the internet substitutes your local computer, and becomes the place where the programs that would normally be handled by your PC are stored, processed and retrieved.
As you may have guessed from the above definition, Cloud computing is all about the internet; that wonderful invention that has made it possible for people from as far apart as Bhutan and the United Kingdom to communicate and do business as if they were in the same room.
If you hear tech geeks talking about the cloud, don’t be too impressed, because all they are talking about is the internet and how this can substitute a local computer to become the primary storage and processing device.
How Tradition Computing Works
To those who still need a further explanation about Cloud Computing, we are going to make the whole concept clear by explaining how computing occurs under normal circumstance. The PC on which I am working right now, as an example, has a Hard Disk Drive, which acts as the permanent storage for everything that is on the computer. This includes all the programs (the software) and files that I need in order to continue working on this article.
Every computer has a processor, that marvelous device that does all the computing on a computer. The processor is often referred to as a computer’s brains. It is where all the calculations and logical processing that enables programs to be interpreted and executed take place. The processor retrieves the needed information and programs from the Hard Drive, the computer’s local storage device.
If, as an example, I open Microsoft Office Word, the program that I am using to produce this article, the processor retrieves the program from the Hard Drive, processes it and executes whatever instructions need to be executed.
Random Access Memory
In between the processor and the Hard Drive is Random Access Memory, a form of volatile storage device that is used to help speed up the computing process by temporarily housing the programs that are in use. This prevents the CPU from having to retrieve every bit of information from the slower Hard Drive, a process that would otherwise significantly slow down computers.
All the information that I am typing into my computer right now, using the keyboard, will be stored on the Hard Drive, from where I can retrieve it whenever I need it.
No need for an Internet Connection
None of the processes that I have described above require any internet connection. What this means is that I can work on this document or on anything else on which I need to work without having to go online.
Everything Local Storage
As I have already mentioned, everything that I need in order to do my work is already available on my computer. Modern computers are pretty well rounded in this regard. You can do almost everything, other than connect to the internet, as long as all the programs that you need are installed on your Hard Drive.
The scenario that I have just explained above is slightly different from Cloud Computing. I have already mentioned that cloud computing is all about the internet. In this regard, cloud computing cannot happen without, to a certain extent, some form of internet connectivity. All the programs that you need under this setup are stored on servers somewhere. You get access to everything over the internet.
Word Processing from the Cloud
Let’s assume that I am now working on this article “on the cloud.” I would need the following things in order for the process to work;
- A computer
- An Internet Connection
- A Cloud Services Provider (also known as a Cloud Provider)
- Internet Connected Servers (run by the cloud provider)
- A Word Processing Program Installed on the Servers
How Cloud Computing works
Cloud computing is normally provided on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) basis. In fact, SaaS is one of the three major components of Cloud computing. The other components are Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).
So, using the example that I have already given, but this time working from the cloud, the first thing that I would need to do in order to get started is turn on my computer and make sure that it is connected to the internet.
From there I would need to get connected and sign into the services that are offered by my Cloud Services provider. In this case, that would be the provision of the word-processing platform that I can use to continue to work on this document. Signing in allows enable me to reach my own, personal section of the server on which all my files are stored.
A Continuous Internet Connection is required
It is obvious, from the above example, that in order to continue working, I would need to have an internet connection. Under a purely cloud based system, the loss of an internet connection means that no more work can be done because all the files are stored on the Cloud Services Provider’s servers and not on the local Hard Drive that is on my computer. This, obviously, has its disadvantages, not least of which is the interruption to whatever it is that you are doing.
An Example of Cloud Computing
I have pretty much explained in detail what cloud computing is. In fact, some would be justified in accusing me of having flogged the topic into submission. In any case, I need to, before closing, give a few examples of some of the companies that are already running cloud based systems.
Microsoft Office 365
Most of the computers that are in use around the world today run on one version of the Windows Operation System or the other, and the majority of them have Microsoft Office installed. The following are some of the programs that make up the Microsoft Office suite;
Office Word is, by far, the program that most people are aware of from the Office stake. It is the one that I am using to create the document on which I am working at the moment.
Cloud Based Office
Microsoft Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud based offering, that contains all the programs that are in the “normal” Office Suite, plus a few more. The additional programs include;
Office 365 is different from the Office that is installed on your computer in that it is a subscription service and is run from the cloud. If, as an example, I was working on this document using 365, I would have had to sign in to my account in order to access my files, all of which would have been stored, not on local storage on my computer, but on the cloud.
Advantages of Cloud Computing
i. Access your work from anywhere
One of the major advantages that come from cloud computing is that you don’t actually need to be on your computer in order to access your files. This system practically eliminates the need for you to lug around a laptop or some form of removable storage device. Everything that you need can be accessed from the cloud. But, what if you do not have an internet connection.
ii. Eliminates risk of losing your files
Cloud computing eliminates the risk that you will lose your files, either in a malware attack or due to a hardware problem with your computer. Although Cloud Providers are not infallible in this regard, they do do a better job of backing up their systems and making sure that no data is ever lost.
iii. Access by teams in different parts of the world
Cloud computing allows you to have teams across the world that are collaborating on the same files. This way, you can have, as an example, people who are in China, South Africa and New York working together to produce one document.
Disadvantages of Cloud Computing
i. You need a constant internet connection
An obvious disadvantage that comes from having things stored on the cloud is that if you happen to wander off the grid, and into a world where there is no internet connectivity, then, you are pretty much lost.
ii. Subscription services cost more
Another disadvantage comes from the subscription format. Cloud Services Providers obviously make a killing by making sure that you are always under the leash, in terms of having to pay a monthly or yearly subscription. Programs that are on my computer, such as Microsoft Office Word, on the other hand, are mine for the lifetime of that computer. I do not have to worry about having to pay an annual fee to anyone.