The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.The newest technology these days in computers is called “cloud computing.” However, the buzzword is so new that many experienced computer users do not yet understand the term. In fact, "the cloud" can be different things to different people. I thought I would write a two-part article: the first part explains what the cloud is, and the second part will describe using the cloud for genealogy purposes.
Computers are marvelous things. We can sit at home with a desktop computer or use a laptop when traveling or even use a handheld computer while sitting in a city park. We can watch YouTube videos, read and write email, check the latest news and weather reports, research a family tree, or perform any of dozens of other tasks, regardless of our location. We can do this because we are connected to a monstrous collection of computers and computer accessories that include routers, switches, hubs, and miles and miles of cabling.
In the traditional world of desktop applications, data is usually stored on a computer’s hard drive. If I’m on vacation and leave my computer at home, I can’t access my email, photos, or any of my data when I need it. In the new world of cloud services, my email and all my data are stored online, that is, on the web. I can get to it by using a web browser from any computer that’s connected to the Internet. In many cases, I can even get to it from a so-called "smartphone." The smartphone is a cellphone which also includes a built-in computer that accesses the Internet via the wireless cellular network.
The hardware in all these networks is invisible to us, and most of us do not understand how it all works. However, our computers, even our tiny cell phone "smartphones," are actually plugged into the collective power of thousands of computers that serve all this information to us from far-away computer systems distributed around the world. It’s almost like having a massive supercomputer at your beck and call, thanks to the Internet.
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