The idea of cloud computing is new only in terminology. It’s been around since the first website went up on the Internet. Even when a piece of information is stored within ‘the cloud,’ it’s still being hosted by a physical server somewhere on the planet.
When you open up a website on your computer, the information you read or view is (mostly) not transferred to your hard drive. Similarly, even a decade ago it was possible to open up your email on one computer and read, send, and delete messages, and then go to another computer and see the changes that you made to your account applied there.
What’s changed is that we’re now accessing large amounts of files and data via the Internet, rather than storing everything on our own hard drives.
These days, there’s a good chance that your business or office is currently utilizing a cloud platform for its server needs. And chances are, some employees and friends may claim bewilderment about what ‘cloud computing’ even means.
The next time you’re tasked with explaining the concept of ‘cloud computing,’ remember that the person you’re talking to is probably already using a cloud service without even realizing it. Here are the ways cloud computing has already become ubiquitous among consumers:
By now, it’s possible that even your grandparents know what Pandora is. Even though the popular online ‘radio’ station lets users instantly pull a vast catalog of music from remote servers, few people thought of it as using ‘the cloud,’ because its random song-selection created a mental separation between the user’s property and what they were accessing online.
The launch of Spotify last fall changed that almost overnight. Although similar services like Rdio and Grooveshark already existed in the U.S., Spotify’s immense catalog of 13 million songs allowed it to jump to the top of the pack of on-demand music streaming sites. Users pay a monthly fee ($10) to access the entire catalog, streaming entire albums from multiple devices without any advertising. By creating playlists, a user’s music is as instantly accessible as it was on their conventional mp3 player, only vastly larger and without requiring any storage space.
Although it’s one of many in the streaming music category, Spotify may be the single largest application of cloud software yet.
Have you ever uploaded a photograph to Facebook for a friend to download? Then you’ve used the cloud.
There are vast options amongst photo sharing sites, each with their own advantages for the professional or amateur photographer. Photobucket, Smugmug, and Flickr lead the group, allowing users to pay for the storage they need to backup and display all of their photographs online.
Files and Data
Just a few years ago, YouSendIt.com catapulted in popularity, allowing the same advantages that FTP hosting offers to the everyday, relatively computer illiterate user, without the fuss of downloading an FTP program and configuring access settings.
Dropbox arrived soon thereafter, revolutionizing the average consumer’s usage of the cloud. With Dropbox, a folder appears on our desktop that syncs to our online storage with the service. Drag a file into it and it’s immediately accessible from all your devices, computers, and via Dropbox’s website online. Best of all, you can open files from the folder and update and save them just as you normally would with a file on your computer. The changes sync automatically.
Google has countered this month with the launch of Google Drive, offering 5GB of free storage to Dropbox’s 2GB. Drive is really just the evolution of Google Docs, another service that people of all walks have used for years, updating text documents and spreadsheets that are saved and shared with coworkers on Google’s server. The early iterations of Google Docs were in fact one of the first office-based uses of cloud technology to catch hold, although few used the ‘cloud’ term to refer to it.
Cloud computing sounds like a new concept to many people, but it’s really just a new term for how we use the Internet to store and share data.
What ways were you using the cloud before you ever thought to refer to it as ‘the cloud?’
About the Author: Anita Brady is the President of 123Print.com. The website offers promotional and office organization supplies like affordable business cards, banners, note-cards, personalized mugs and other items that combine high quality and customization with an affordable price.