“In the cloud” for beginners – Cloud Computing 099

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Cloud computing is a term you hear more and more and will hear more and more. You may also have heard it referred to as remote computing, hosted apps and a few other names. What it is, in reality, is quite simple. Your operating system, Windows, Mac, Ubuntu, RedHat, whatever you use is on your device. It could even be a pared down OS like Android or WebOS. Your applications and your data, most of it, is stored on a remote computer called a “cloud server”. The illustration from WikiCommons demonstrates nicely – see Figure 1

Diagram of Cloud Computing

Figure 1 - Diagram of Cloud Computing

Currently I am using four different cloud systems on two different cloud networks. I have DropBox, Amazon Cloud and AWS all residing on Amazon’s servers. Then for work I use only a terminal connection and connect to the Oasys network.

Cloud computing is not new nor is it truly revolutionary. In fact many years ago I administered a retail system operating on OS/3 and Unix where all of the terminals connected to the Unix server through a combination of OS/3 and Windows 3.11 terminals. Nothing happened on the workstation except the operating system. What makes cloud “different” is that it is available to anyone. The web, gopher, FTP and other wide area network protocols made this more possible.

Here are a few things you need to know about cloud computing:

  1. Your data or data and applications mostly exist on a computer you connect to with your device. It can be a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, pad, or smart phone.
  2. You can access your data and applications from any computer with a connection to the Internet. This makes cloud computing very appealing because you never have to wonder which device your photos or report are on.
  3. You will need to download and install a small bit of software to make your data available from multiple devices without having to go to the services web interface.
  4. You data is more susceptible to hijacking but there are different levels of protection and security offered through different services. For the most part Amazon is relatively safe although they recently suffered an attack which temporarily took out a large portion of their data center for a short time.
  5. For the individual non-business user the best reasons to use cloud storage is not the applications but the data so that you can access your photos, videos and documents from any device.
If you want to poke around on some cloud services try looking at http://www.eyeos.org/try-eyeos-2-4/ for a full-blown service. Free services include small accounts from both Amazon and DropBox.