We live in a day and age where technology is advancing so fast that just ten years ago we could not have foreseen the technological advances that we enjoy today. Certainly we have seen plenty of retina scanning and fingerprint scanners in the movies and in science fiction books. Now, however, we see fingerprint security on personal laptops and just about everyone knows what encryption is and uses some form of it. So, when this strange phenomenon called “Cloud Computing” came into the public eye, it set imaginations running and people began asking questions about what it was and what is it capable of.
A large part of the problem in accurately describing cloud computing is that there are many different definitions that are all technically correct. It is application deployment, decentralized office applications, customer service management solutions, storage and much more. Today, I want to focus on the three most popular uses of cloud computing: Cloud Storage, Cloud Hosting, and Software as a Service.
This is really a simple idea that can be made complex when you put too much thought into it. At the end of the day, cloud storage is off site backups and storage that can be accessed from any computer or cellular with an Internet connection. It lets the user share large multimedia files across several locations with several people at the same time, all without needing a laptop or a flash drive. Most cloud storage services also allow for multiple users to access the account, such as in cloud services like AVG’s LiveKive which assigns a separate file sharing link to whomever you wish to share with. The link accesses only the files that the administrator designates. Some of the most popular cloud storage services are:
Amazon Cloud | http://aws.amazon.com/ec2/
This Amazon product allows you to store your documents and applications as well as e-books bought in Kindle format. It also allows you to upload your music to their service and no matter how much music there is, you have unlimited space that does not go against your quota for photos, movies, documents and other file types.
DropBox | http://www.dropbox.com/
DropBox allows you to upload your files to their service through a downloaded client that will allow you to simply drop files into a folder that it then synchronizes with your files online. It also allows for sharing by creating folders that get shared with specified users through their email.
AVG LiveKive | http://www.avg.com
AVG is well known for their virus and firewall software, and now they’ve entered the cloud storage game by offering their service as a backup solution. LiveKive also allows you to have your backed-up data shared between authorized users and devices.
Having an off-site non-physical backup location is an attractive option for those who worry about their external drives falling to their death when a cat runs across their desk. In order to make the most use of cloud storage and be certain of your backup integrity, a recommendation of on and off site storage and redundancy is recommenced by experts.
Cloud hosting is fast becoming the web hosting solution of choice, especially with e-commerce merchants. Instead of being limited by the space and utilities of a physical web server, those who use the cloud to host their shops and take payments and orders through it find that they can scale their server space to meet their needs without paying for unnecessary utilities or running out of space and having to make the hard decision of which items and services need to be cut from their enterprise.
Cloud hosting can save businesses the expense of not having to negotiate higher bandwidth caps or purchasing new software and hardware in order to keep up with the flow of traffic that their site produces, since most pricing schemes are per-use. More and more hosting companies are moving towards this form of hosting in order to expand upon their current infrastructures and to offer their clients more competitive pricing.
Software as a Service
Here we come to one of the newest but most well known implementations of cloud computing. Software as a Service (SaaS) is an invaluable service for companies who have employees who need their information at a moment’s notice and on the go. SaaS involves the access of applications by users at any time from any location.
One excellent example of SaaS is Salesforce, the ever popular customer management program. It keeps track of all contacts and sales pipelines as well as customer service inquiries so that, no matter where you are, you can reach the information at your fingertips through laptop, desktop, tablet or cell phone. The information is kept in an organized fashion and each installation of Salesforce is customized to the client’s needs so there is very little bloating that makes similar traditional programs so annoying to use and complex to understand. It also allows for far better oversight for employees who spend a lot of time away from the office.
Other similar software would include the Google Docs suit and Microsoft Office 365 where individuals can create accounts and store their documents, spreadsheets, .pdf files and more on the cloud and edit them whenever they desire, from any location. Also, these services offer options for collaboration and sharing at different levels of security. A document can either be only visible to others or they can have read/write access. At the top of the access list, the user can read and write as well as delete and invite others to share and assign privileges. These types of software are becoming more popular as more companies and other organizations take their enterprises to the cloud, working with a population that is spread out all over the city, if not the world.
The Future of Cloud Computing
These are only some of the uses that cloud technology currently supports. When it comes to the future, it is obvious that this will become the way of life for those who rely on vast amounts of data and require portability across systems and devices. Cloud services offer a less expensive and far more versatile experience for users to work with their information and to provide services for others on short notice. Also, it decentralizes data storage which will assist the users in feeling far more secure about their data and give one more tool against corrupted hard drives and other accidents of nature. As time goes on, it is certain that the cloud will become integrated with just about every type of activity that takes place on the Internet.