If you tend to roll your eyes when you hear people talk about computing “in the cloud,” you’re not alone. Cloud computing sounds made up. It sounds like a hot new trend that, before long, will inevitably go the way of the floppy disk.
But it’s not, and that should make you happy.
If you absolutely have no clue what cloud computing is, let’s break it down. On a basic level, it means you get a computing function that you need (like file storage) as a service (like Google Docs) instead of from a device (like a hard drive.)
In the business sector, cloud computing and cloud services have been a known quantity for a while. Many consumers have only started hearing about “the cloud” more recently, even though lots of us use cloud-based services (Google’s apps being a prime example.) The vast majority of the time, we access the service in the cloud via the internet.
There are three main services you can get in puffy, white cloud form. The first is infrastructure, like a computer network–you know, that thing you probably use and hate at work. The second is platform, like an operating system (a.k.a. Windows or Mac.) And the third is software, anything from Microsoft Word to Oregon Trail. (Check out this article for a more detailed explanation and awesome history of the cloud.)
So, in English, using the cloud makes all your “smart” devices–computers, tablets, smart phones–capable of doing the computing functions that used to be limited to personal computers.
Businesses have been using the cloud for years, from full-service plans provided by companies like AT&T to simple storage apps like Dropbox. Right now, the most common consumer use of the cloud is for data sync and storage. Anyone who’s got a recent iPhone or iPad has seen–and, quite possible, ignored – the iCloud feature, precious photos and videos zipping off to a mysterious Apple server to keep them safe for all eternity.
The cool thing about cloud computing–the part that should get you really pumped–is its total flexibility. The tools are so easily adaptable to the 21st century digital whims of really creative people. It’s moving from just being a way to back up your files to a collaboration and innovation tool. Check out a couple of TEDx talks that show the kinds of things you can do if you let your brain float up to the cloud.
The late Steve Jobs, at the keynote address where he introduced iCloud, said that the service would “demote the PC and the Mac to be just a device, and…move the digital hub into cloud.” By making the personal computer “just a device,” it puts other devices like tablets and phones on equal footing.
As Jobs explained to his official biographer, Walter Isaacson, it’s no longer the personal computer that will be the “digital hub” for consumers, the place where they can manage email, store files, and share adorable videos of their child with a melting popsicle. It’ll be the cloud. And every internet-capable device we have will be able to take part in the fun. Now THAT’S something to get excited about.
Author Bio:- Nick Blumberg writes from Arizona and writes on everything from cloud services to political news. He currently works full-time at NPR and does freelance on the side.