“Everything’s gonna move to the Cloud soon man…”
…”what’s ‘the Cloud?’”
… “not sure”
– A conversation I probably had sometime in the early 2000s –
Much like ‘The Internet’ in the 90s, ‘The Cloud’ seems to be today’s often-used-but-only-partially-understood techie term. Once a vague conceptual evolution of enterprise computing that struck as much fear as it did curiosity (so I’m just uploading my files into the ether?!?!), it is now something most of us interact with every single day.
Any time you check your email, post a pic to Instagram or watch 5 episodes of Extreme Cheapskates in a row on Netflix (what am I doing with my life?!) you are effectively interacting with the Cloud.
That said, most of us would struggle to explain what the Cloud actually is. Ignoring any heavy-handed meteorological metaphors for once, here are 3 things you need to know about the Cloud.
1. The Cloud is not a new name for ‘The Internet’
The Internet is a network of computing resources… and so is the Cloud. It is not, however simply a buzzword, repackaged for the purposes of marketing.
The Internet has evolved in recent years to become a utility we depend on for being available when we want it, where we want it. Not only that, but we expect an uninterrupted experience when we switch between websites, apps and even devices. The Cloud is what allows this to happen.
If, for example, I read an email on my phone, I now expect that same email to be marked as ‘read’ when I switch to using my tablet. In this instance, the Cloud is what tells my tablet ‘hey, he’s already read that email on his phone.” I may even use a different email app on each device – the Cloud ensures they are all in sync with each other. This is just one everyday interaction made possible by the Cloud; You can substitute reading emails in this story with editing photos, writing documents or working with any other piece of content we create or manage using the internet.
If we consider the Cloud as being what powers a smarter, more seamless experience of the Internet then we are getting close to the truth.
2. The Cloud is good business
Instead of investing in expensive data centers of their own, most companies now use services such as Amazon AWS to store, manage and process their data. it is both cost-effective and hugely scalable. With a shift towards capacity as an on-demand feature, companies only pay for what they use and are all but guaranteed to never run out of space or processing resources.
That app you use to send picture messages to your friends suddenly sees a spike in new users?… no problem. The company behind it can easily expand to accommodate, thanks to the Cloud.
Smaller businesses are now able to power their apps and services with the same reliability, security and speed as much larger ones thanks to the cloud
3. The Cloud is great for users too
Pre-Cloud, we used external hard drives, USB thumb drives, CDs and DVDs to move our data around… you couldn’t listen to that album on your MP3 player unless you drag and dropped is from your desktop to the file system of the device. The whole process was as tangled as the pile of USB cables you kept in that drawer.
These physical objects and the laborious task of manual data transfer are now being replaced by the Cloud. Now, once your album is uploaded, it is accessible from pretty much anywhere with an internet connection.
Cloud-based storage/syncing services such as Dropbox, BitCasa or Sugarsync are fulfilling the needs of users who want ALL their content on demand, then there are the more focused solutions that cater for more specific needs; Services such as Picturelife, Flickr or MyDigipack (us!) that deal in photos and videos or Google Music, Amazon Cloud Player and MyMusicCloud that bring the music listening experience to the cloud.
So there you have it. A dangerously over-simplified look at the Cloud. Hopefully after reading this, the next time someone asks you what the Cloud is you will be able to at least stall them for a while. Either that or just show them your MyDigipack app and tell them ‘it just works’.
Let us know in the comments what your experience with the Cloud has been and check back for more blog posts exploring the topic.