Thursday, November 1, 2012

Is It A Good Thing To Have Our Head In The Cloud?

Earlier this summer Gartner Inc predicted that one-third of all consumer's digital content would be stored in "the Cloud" by 2013. 

Hummmm … very interesting you say. But what does that mean?

If you feel as if today's technology seems to be evolving faster than a romantic pair of rabbits and you can't keep up … you aren't alone. If you find yourself wondering "What is this Cloud that everyone keeps talking about and what's so great about it" then read on.

Back When I Was Your Age …

You knew you are "mature" when you utter the phrase, "When I was your age …" Technology has changed so quickly that even today's generation are astounded at the rapidly morphing technology. Back in the day all of your data, photos, files and music were stored on a physical piece of hardware. A floppy disk, CD or on your computer's hard drive.

In today's world, when you access a photograph that is on Facebook, Flickr, listen to music on Pandora or watch a movie on Netflix - that photo, music or movie isn't on your computer. Can you guess where it is? 

The Cloud

Simply put, the Cloud are services and technologies that allow the delivery of computing services typically delivered over the Internet in real-time, giving you (referred to as the "end-user") instant access to data and applications from any device with Internet access. 

Your email or webmail services are in the Cloud

Think of the Cloud as as a utility like electricity. When I plug my smart phone charger into the wall, electricity flows. I didn't generate the electricity myself and, other than a bunch of wires hidden behind the wall, I have no clue where it was generated. All I care about is that when I need it, my cell phone is charged.

Cloud computing or being "in the Cloud" works on this same principle. Through an Internet connection (the electrical outlet), I can access whatever applications, files, photos or data that I have opted to be stored in the cloud - anytime, from any device.  I don't necessarily care how it gets to me and where it's stored - all I know is when I want to access my online journal, it's there.

In reality it isn't that simple … Cloud Computing represents more than one type of service - it might be more appropriate to compare it to all the utilities hooked up to your house. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology there are three basic types of service. For us non-geeks, we can break it down into much simpler terms in two types of Cloud: Public or Private.

The Public Cloud is the ability to use services that do not reside on your local computer: Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, Facebook, Flickr or Instagram are all examples of the Public Cloud. All of these services allow you to access the Cloud by storing your information in a datacenter and streaming that information to your personal computer. It is "Public" because it allows you to stream movies, have an email account that is maintained by a public infrastructure. In that case you've been using the Cloud without ever realizing it.

A Public Cloud is a lot like an apartment building full of separate tenants and each tenant uses the space allotted to them for their personal use. If they need a bigger apartment, they will need to pay for the additional space.

In a Private Cloud, you are the only tenant in your building which means you don't have to worry about what other tenants are doing that could potentially cause a breakdown in security. A good hosting company will deploy stringent firewalls across the Private Cloud to make sure this doesn't happen.

Private consumers tend to use the Public Cloud while companies tend to use the Private Cloud.

It use to be said that if you had your head in the clouds you were considered a daydreamer. Looks like technology has changed the meaning of yet another term that I knew back in the day ...