If you asked 10 people to explain cloud computing, also called web-based computing or just “The Cloud,” you would probably get 10 different answers. This is because what is important to each person is not so much what cloud computing is, but rather what it does specifically for them.
In its simplest terms, web-based computing refers to storing or accessing data and software programmes in cyberspace, or over the internet, instead of on the hard drive of your computer. Web-based computing is basically a metaphor for the internet and dates back to the time when companies first stared storing their presentations on gigantic server systems.
To really understand web-based computing you first have to understand why it is has become so popular. First, the cloud isn’t about what is stored on your hard drive. Traditionally, when you save data to, or run software programmes from, your hard drive all your data is literally at your fingertips. Typically, this means accessing your information is quick and easy for the one computer the data is stored on, or for multiple computers sharing a local network. Some people feel storing all your info on your hard drive is outmoded, whereas other still feel it is a better option that having your data floating around in cyberspace.
Web-based computing is also not about being connected to a dedicated network, meaning a server that only a limited number of computers are connected to, such as in an office setting. For data and programmes to truly be stored in the cloud the data must be accessed over the internet.
How The Cloud Impacts Consumers and Business
For anyone who works remotely, from home or on the road, or in a small-to-medium office setting and use the internet regularly typically views and uses the cloud quite differently than does big business. For the consumer web-based computing is used to send email, the original cloud-computing programme, or build a website for their home-based business with a website-building tool provided by the hosting company. However, web-based computing is a completely different animal for big businesses.
Web-based computing in itself is big business, as in 2012 the cloud market was producing $100 billion a year in revenue and that is projected to grow to $270 billion by 2020. Large corporations use the cloud for everything from sending email to selling consumers subscriptions to various services. Some companies choose to implement Software-as-a-Service, often referred to as SaaS, where the business buys a subscription to a software application that can only be accessed over the internet, such as sales-management programme.
The lines between local computing and cloud services can get very blurry. This is because the cloud is now part of virtually everything everyone does on their computers today. For example, a computer may have a software programme loaded on its hard drive that uses a cloud service to store data. Many popular office software suites now offer a set of web applications that are online-only versions of the same programmes that used to be bought on disk and loaded onto the hard drive of your computer, making the apps a version of web-based computing. The cloud also allows both businesses and consumers to share data, such as photos and presentations, between multiple uses, like coworkers collaborating on project, and multiple devices, such as a laptop and a smart phone.
Some companies have started building laptops that have complete could-based operating systems, with just enough local storage to power a bare-bones system that takes you to the web, This means that almost everything you do must be done online and that all your files and apps are all stored in the cloud. Of course, this is a problem if you ever find yourself somewhere without an internet connection, and this is not only one of the biggest complaints about web-based operating systems, but with cloud computing in general.