If you use a web-based e-mail service, online photo sharing or if you share ideas on forums and discussion networks, you are cloud computing. Cloud computing is data storage and applications that are kept somewhere other than your computer. This allows access to current data and software that is stored via virtual servers or computers, possibly in another part of the world.
The concept can be compared to the rollout of grid-based electricity. When implemented over a century ago, businesses and consumers no longer needed to produce their own power. Instead, they could plug into a huge network. With cloud computing, users connect to services and applications anytime as they are needed.
Examples of cloud computing include:
• SaaS stands for "Software as a Service". Rather than relying on desktop software or traditional servers, some software is hosted by a third party and available via the cloud.
• Web-based e-mail services
• Online photo sharing
• Forums and discussion networks
• Social networking (Facebook, MySpace, Classmates, etc.)
• Storage services
• Spam Filtering
• Managed Security Services
• Virtual Hosting
Most of us don't give much thought to where in the world such files and services exist, just that they are available when we want them. Cloud computing provides the benefit of anytime access to data, added capabilities, increased capacity, and free software that is kept up to date.
Few would argue that the benefits of cloud computing are great and should be embraced with open enthusiasm. Like anything though, some approach the concept with distrust. Not knowing where data is stored brings up privacy and security concerns. If the data is not backed up and goes missing, who is responsible? Others believe that it's marketing hype. The concern is that people would become trapped into using proprietary systems. Another question is how the software or data becomes available if the computer is working, but the broadband Internet connection is experiencing an outage.
One thing is for sure. Cloud computing is the next stage of the Internet's evolution. Since it eliminates many of the constraints from the traditional computing environment, including space, time and cost, the cloud has changed technology.