“It’s in the cloud.” “We can store that on the cloud.” “I love the cloud, it’s so much easier!”
If you own a computer and surf the web, then chances are you have heard the term “cloud computing.” But what is this mysterious cloud, and how can one put something in it?
The Old School
Back in the olden days (in technology, that would be about two years ago), when you went to your local technology store to buy a computer you also had to buy software that made the computer do the things you wanted it to do, such as type letters, make spreadsheets and design presentations.
Your computer housed the programs in its memory, and the upkeep of that program — software updates, uninstalls, etc.—was left to you, the end user. It didn’t matter if you worked for the most innovative Internet marketing services company or the local hardware store in your 2-horse town. You installed software.
Cloud computing makes all that tech-y hassles disappear.
Software as a Service
Cloud computing turns software into a service for the end user—this is a form of the commonly used term “SaaS” (software as a service). Instead of keeping your software programs stored on your computer, you instead use the Internet to log into your applications. For example, imagine it’s Monday morning and you’re ready to start your day. Instead of opening up Microsoft Word, you open your web browser, go to your assigned site, log in, and access your programs from there.
In other words, the old days of installing a suite on your computer are effectively over.
Pros and Cons of the Cloud
If you hate installing software, managing updates, worrying about your soon-to-expire licenses and almost-gone memory, you’re not alone. For these users, cloud computing is ideal, because it shifts the bulk of the workload of software maintenance to third party tech support. Using the cloud isn’t unlike hiring an ecommerce SEO company — you’re outsourcing the heavy lifting.
The downside is the potential security risk to your personal and professional files and data. When you cloud compute, you are basically handing all of your data to a third party who promises to manage it in a secure fashion. Should the service get hacked— or shut down—you expose yourself to risk. You are also living with big assumptions: first, your CSP (cloud service provider) handles maintenance and service interruptions with expertise and speed; second, you won’t want to migrate to another CSP; third, your CSP manages its storage, traffic and finances adequately.
You’re Probably in the Cloud Already
Before you panic and think, “NO WAY,” take a deep breath. If you have an Internet-based email account from a provider such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo, you have some experience with cloud computing already. You didn’t download the software to get a web-based email account; you simply went to the website, gave them some personal info, picked a login and password and went about your day.
Cloud computing enthusiasts want to do the same thing, but for software applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. So if you trust your email, you’re probably a good candidate to move your data to the cloud.