The cloud! It’s a term you hear everywhere you go, and you sort of vaguely know what it is, but never well enough to explain it to your dad. So what exactly is this mysterious floating (?) storage space? Well, that’s all it is, really – a storage space. Just online instead of on a physical computer or network. The cloud is really just another word for the Internet. Yeah, that’s it, which means you’re probably using cloud computing right now if you’re online!
Local storage and computing, by comparison refers to data stored on and programs run on a hard drive. It allows for easier accessibility to data from your computer or from computers linked to the local network. And storing data on a home or office network is not the same as it being on the cloud. It’s only cloud computing when your data is being accessed or stored over the internet.
But, and here’s where it get confusing, the line between cloud and local computing can actually get quite a bit blurred. This is primarily because cloud computing is everywhere and part of everything. (Well. Obviously. The internet’s everywhere and part of everything.) You’ll find local software like Microsoft Excel using cloud computing for storage purposes by uploading content to the Microsoft OneDrive. And there’s even an online version of Microsoft Office that you’ve probably used, where you access Word, Excel and Powerpoint without installing them. That’s cloud computing now, since it’s web-based.
Quite a few other cloud services have seen a massive rise in popularity. Google Drive, for example, provides purely cloud based service and works with cloud apps like Google Docs and Google Sheets. Actually, when you think about it, the core of all of Google’s services is cloud based anyway, be they in the form of Google Maps or Gmail.
Then you have the Apple iCloud, which provides online storage and backup and synchronizes mail, contacts and more. Amazon Cloud Drive on the other hand, specializes in music storage in addition to whatever digital purchases you make from Amazon. Other services that use the cloud in some way or the other include Dropbox, Spotify and Netflix.
When it comes to businesses using a cloud computing system, the hardware and software demands on local computers decrease. Local computers do not have to spend significant processing power running all the applications – that job now belongs to the computers that comprise of the cloud. As long as the local computers can run the cloud computing system's interface software, the cloud can take care of the rest.
But cloud computing applications differ when it comes to businesses as opposed to individual users. Businesses can implement Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), where the business subscribes to an application it accesses over the Internet. Other business oriented services include Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that allows the creation of custom applications. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), on the other hand, are powered by Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Rackspace and can be rented out to companies.