You’ve heard of people keeping their pictures and files in the cloud. At work, they might say that the software you use is in the cloud. Almost everything seems to be moving towards the cloud.
But what is the cloud? And how to make the most of it?
What Is The Cloud?
How do you define something that is supposed to be ambiguous? Since at least 1977, when a computer network was drawn, a cloud symbol has been used to represent unknown resources outside of the immediate network. You know it’s there, you just can’t see it in the sky as a real cloud. Often it was just an internet connection.
This really is the cloud – the internet and all the things you are connected to that are not in your home or office. You may have heard someone say, “It is just someone else’s computer.” That is not very far. There are more computers, servers, routers, switches, and all kinds of technology. It’s everything that makes the Internet work and much more.
Where Did This Idea Come From?
Depending on how old you are, you might remember hearing about mainframe timeshares. That’s something that started in the 1960s. You can send a job to a mainframe. The mainframe was doing work when it wasn’t doing someone else’s work.
It may take minutes, days, or weeks for the mainframe to have an open time slot. They were huge and powerful for the time, but underperformed even when compared to computers from the 1980s.
When the personal computer appeared, mainframe computing became less important. It was easier, faster and cheaper to run your programs right on your desktop. But that was just a contraction of network computing. The Internet would change all that.
As computing and networking technology became cheaper, it made sense for technology companies to revert to mainframe services. Everyone was already using the internet, why not make it the machine that does all the work?
Companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Google have built huge warehouses filled with powerful servers. They built amazing programs on it that we could use from home. Internet speeds went from drizzling on a tap to electricity from a fire station. It was too big, too fast, and too full of possibilities to describe it all, which is why it was called the cloud.
What Can I Do With The Cloud?
If you are reading this, you are already using it. There is cloud storage, cloud computing, and cloud infrastructure. What can’t be done with it? To get the most out of the cloud, you need a deep understanding of these issues and the services available to help you get the most out of them.
What Is Cloud Storage?
Where you can have all your files stored on your computer or external hard drive, there are companies that offer storage on their servers. They have a downloadable app that seamlessly backs up your files to the cloud and gives you instant access.
The advantage of this type of storage is that you can still access all your old files, pictures and videos after your computer crashes. The downside is that there is usually a subscription fee.
There are several that offer free accounts with some restrictions. You can pay to upgrade these plans if you want. Google Drive offers 15 GB for free. Microsoft OneDrive and Apple iCloud offer 5GB of free storage.
What Is Cloud Computing?
Instead of programs running on your local computer, computing in the cloud means that you work with programs that are somewhere on the Internet.
You see everything that happens on your computer, but the real action takes place on a server that can be thousands of miles away. It’s like watching the news. You see it locally on your TV, but all the work of the newscaster, meteorologist, and cameramen is in a studio somewhere. The television is inside your window.
Anything you can do with a computer can be done with cloud computing services. If you used things like Google Docs, Microsoft Office 365, Apple’s iCloud, or any other free email service, then you used cloud computing. You can also make professional music productions, video chat, share your screen with other people, and much more.
Related: What Is Double NAT and How to Fix It on a Network
What Is Cloud Infrastructure?
Like remote servers that run your software, remote servers can act as hardware and parts of a network. The average home user probably doesn’t need a cloud infrastructure, but it’s nice to know that it exists.
Here is an example of how a cloud infrastructure could help you. Imagine thinking of getting a Mac. But you’ve never used one before. That’s a lot of money to spend on something you’re not sure of. There are things like cloud-based Macs. You access a server running virtual Macs and use it like a Mac on your desktop.
You can also use the cloud as your personal media server to watch your movies and TV shows and listen to your music from any computer in the world. The Plex Media Server is a great example.
How Do I Get The Most Out Of It?
Reading articles like this is the first step. Get an idea of the services available to you. Think about the things you do on your computer, then find a cloud service for the same.
Compare the pros and cons of this service with what you are already doing. What is cheaper? Which one has the features you need? Who do you trust? By asking these questions, you will find the best combination of your computer and the cloud for you.