Cloudy Understanding of Cloud Computing

Because the cloud shouldn't be as confusing as the plot of Cloud Atlas! 

Back-to-school season has us reminiscing about our early education. Like us, you probably learned about common cloud types, like, stratus, altostratus, cirrus, and cumulus in science class. You may not, however, know that there is another, manmade, cloud.  If you missed the lesson on this manmade cloud, re-enrolling in elementary school as an adult is not the answer. As appealing as nap time sounds, it is much more dignified to read the following “SLICE it Up with Alannah” post, which teaches you the ABCs of cloud computing!

Cloud Formation

Cloud computing, often referred to as “the cloud”, is a model for delivering information technology (IT) services in which resources are retrieved from the Internet via web-based tools and applications, rather than through a direct connection to a server. Despite its snappy nickname, the cloud is not a single entity.  The cloud computing industry is no different from most. It consists of various providers, some with better reputations than others.

Details surrounding the invention of the concept are a bit, well, cloudy. We know the idea of delivering computing resources through a global network dates back to the 1960s, however, it is unclear whose brainchild it is. Some credit computer scientist, J.C.R. Licklider, with inventing the concept of cloud computing. Others contend that it was John McCarthy, also a computer scientist, who came up with it.

Though the idea of cloud computing has existed since the 1960’s, it was not an option for most until the 1990s, when the Internet became widely used and began to offer sufficient bandwidth. The end of the decade saw the arrival of Inc., a services firm that pioneered the practice of delivering applications through a simple website. Both specialist and mainstream software companies followed suit.

The next few years brought more innovations that played a critical role in cloud computing’s development. The first one was the introduction of Amazon Web Services in 2002, which provides storage and other cloud-based capabilities. Amazon did it again in 2006. The company made cloud computing widely accessible with the launch of its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). EC2 is a commercial web service that enables individuals and small businesses to rent computers on which to run their own applications. In 2009, Google and others began to offer browser-based enterprise applications. The advent of browser-based applications converged with advancements in virtualization technology as well as high-speed bandwidth, ensuring many cloudy days to come.

Living (and Working) Under a Cloud

If you are still confused about the cloud, it is not for lack of experience. If you have uploaded a selfie to Instagram, you have uploaded an image to the cloud. (No, the cloud does not believe you #wokeuplikethis either.) Indeed, the cloud is so ubiquitous, that it encompasses basically everything on the Internet. It used to be that all of your personal data was stored in a physical piece of hardware, such as a floppy disk. Lose the floppy disk and you would lose your data. Today, all of your Facebook photos, Google Drive documents, etc… are stored in the cloud, accessible from all of your devices.

With capabilities like these, it is no wonder that over half of United States businesses use cloud computing. The cloud’s easy accessibility is cost effective, eliminating shipping and travel expenses. It facilitates collaboration and simplifies the transition to a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. Many agile businesses attribute their success to utilization of the cloud.

Cloudy with a Chance of Disaster

Like its natural namesake, the cloud can be ominous. Security experts warn that the cloud, with its large volume of data, is a hacker’s dream. There have been instances of hackers using the cloud’s data syncing capabilities to permanently erase information from all of an individual’s personal devices. When the cloud rains, it pours. If a large company’s cloud is compromised, the fallout can effect hundreds of employees. It is also important to consider that, although the concept has existed since the 1960s, cloud computing technology as a viable option is still very new. Putting your faith, not to mention all data related to your career and personal life, into budding technology is a bold move.

Silver lining: you now know how the cloud works, enabling you to decide how big a role you would like it to play in your life, if any.

This concludes the latest installment of “Slice it Up with Alannah”. Keep reading to understand the technological world slice by slice!


By: Alannah Dragonetti

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