The term “cloud computing” first gained headway in 2007, when Dell Computers tried (unsuccessfully) to file a trademark claim for the phrase. Hundreds of other companies followed suit. Cloud computing describes the process by which both data and services are supplied to the consumer on demand, using a highly scalable system. It has many benefits, which I’ll describe in a moment.
We have always been somewhat tied to our technology. It allows us to do wonderful things, but it became a ball and chain around our foot. Companies began issuing their workers a personal computer with state-of-the-art Internet connections, only to find that they had to hire dozens of IT personnel to go around to each computer on a regular basis and update the software. New patches from Microsoft and other software vendors, not to mention actual software upgrades and the inevitable personal computer hard drive crash, meant that a constant stream of technicians in and out of the offices. The owners of the personal computers could be and often were held accountable for important files that went missing, or files that were damaged in some way, or sensitive files that “leaked out” in some fashion. I’m not trying to say that anything bad came out of the Tech revolution, I’m just saying that progress comes hand in hand with problems. Luckily, cloud computing has now solved many of these problems.
Our Internet connections and private network connections (where nearby computers are linked together, with or without any access to the Internet) have improved in speed and quality to the point where not only can our precious data be accessed remotely, but the very programs we use to manipulate that data (Microsoft Office, etc) can be accessed remotely. The individual user doesn’t have to worry anymore about having the latest, up-to-date software suite on their individual computer; they also don’t have to worry about carrying sensitive files around on CDs or memory flash drives. They simply log into their individual computers (whether at home or the office) and access the files they need using a secure login sequence. The software they need to use along with the files in question are made available to them at that time. When they are finished, the software disappears from their local PC and the modified file is again stored remotely.
This is an incredible freedom; it benefits all parties. For the corporation/business in charge, their IT costs are reduced, as they no longer need teams of technicians visiting each individual PC to make sure the software is up to date and correctly patched/maintained. They simply concentrate on keeping the distribution point software up to date; when users access it, they are then automatically getting the correct version. Users no longer have to worry with keeping track of/preserving sensitive data. They don’t have to worry about where the data is being stored. In many cases (due to security concerns) the users may not have any idea where the data is being stored. It could be across the country. As far as the user is concerned, the data and software is simply stored “in the clouds, somewhere.” The data files are instantly available, no matter what PC the consumer is using, or where the consumer is located at any point in time – at the airport, in the car, etc. The software needed to access the files is available anywhere as well.
Another important advantage to cloud computing is that the needs of the business can be addressed and served on a very scalable platform. What I mean to say, is that if you’re in charge of a small company that all of a sudden has a huge upturn in the volume of your business, you may not be able to afford the huge initial expense of quadrupling your computer capacity. Providing that much onsite storage, along with the technicians needed to maintain everyone’s individual software set on their individual computers, may be out of your price range. However, a staple offering from cloud computing is the ability to invisibly scale the computing resources as necessary. If your business doubles, it is relatively easy to double your cloud computing resources. Businesses are free to concentrate on the data, as opposed to fretting about the means and costs of accessing that data.
Cloud computing is certainly going to be a huge part of our technological future. Once consumers taste a technology that offers freedom, they don’t go back. The ability to access files and software tools from any location at any time is simply too powerful for consumers to ignore. You can begin taking advantage of cloud computing right now, if you like, at no cost. Google Documents allows users to store their office documents (spreadsheets, text files) online and to access them / edit them from any computer that has internet access. More to the point, you’re given a Web address link to share with your coworkers, who can then also access that file, and even edit it as well if you like. You can even both be editing the file at the same time, bringing new meaning to the word “collaboration.” It’s truly a breathtaking advance in computing technology, and it’s something that anyone can and should be using to their fullest advantage.
Dell Computers filing with the Patent and Trademark Office.
Google Documents homepage.