Cloud Computing

July 31, 2009

Cloud Computing is a term used to refer to software and services delivered via the internet. Traditionally, you install a computer application on your computer and  you store your data on your computer. Then you run that computer application to modify the data stored on your computer. For a business, the data might be stored on a local server. For example, if you wanted to edit a document, you might run Microsoft Word on your computer, open the document file which is stored on your computer, and edit it.

In cloud computing, the computer application isn’t installed on the local computer and the data isn’t stored there either. The local computer becomes more af a dumb terminal. An interface to the internet, if you will.

Instead of running software (like Microsoft Word) on a PC,  you would simply run a web browser to access word processor functionality over the internet. You would open the file and edit it, but now the file is located on a server somewhere on the internet. This type of functionality is available now through Google Docs. All you need is a free Google Account, and you can create, edit, and store documents on Google. You can also do the same with presentations or spreadsheets. But it isn’t quite as powerful as having Microsoft office on installed on your desktop. Not yet, at least.

In a business environment, data, e-mail, file storage, applications, and other services traditionally provided by a server would be provided over the internet. Each of these services may be provided by a different service provider.

Anyone who uses the internet is using some form of cloud computing. When you read your e-mail using a web interface, access your financial information on your bank’s website, and perform other similar actions, you are using cloud computing. In a nutshell, the software and the data are not on your computer, they are somewhere on the internet.

The advantage for a business is that there is no capital expenditure on computer hardware or software. In the cloud, a business would simply subscribe to a service and begin using that service over the internet. Software for running your business, email, calendaring, and ton of other services are available. Quick and easy to set up. Cheap to implement and no maintenance fees.

Cloud computing isn’t perfect, though. Many people don’t like the idea that your data is not in your possession. Someone else holds it for you. Not only that, but your data may be spread out all over the place. One type of data may be with one service provider in California while a different set of data may be with a different service provider in Dallas.

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