The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
Storing information “in the cloud” have fewer security issues than storing data on your own hard drive or in a flash drive but that doesn’t mean that you can ignore the security issues involved. security issues, although not as many. Luckily, those issues are also easily solved. Let’s start first with a definition of the cloud.
What is The Cloud?
The word “cloud” is a collective term. The cloud is not a single thing. Rather, it is a collection of hardware, software, data, and networks. It exists in thousands of data centers located around the world. No one company or government controls the cloud; it is a collection of many things owned and operated by thousands of different corporations and non-profit organizations.
The cloud also may be envisioned as the next evolution beyond the World Wide Web. While the original World Wide Web delivered information one-way to the user, the cloud does all that and more. The cloud provides two-way data as well as multi-user and even collaborative applications. Do you use Google Docs? If so, you are already using the cloud. Do you use Find-A-Grave? If so, you are already using the cloud. Do you pay bills online? If so, you are already using the cloud. The same is true for Facebook, Flickr, Shutterfly, Twitter, Mozy, Carbonite, Gmail, and thousands of other cloud-based services.
On thing that is radically different with using the cloud is that applications may be stored in remote servers located around the world, not in your own computer’s hard drive. However, the use of remote applications, or “apps,” stored in the cloud is optional; you can still continue to use the applications stored in your own computer or use the apps in the cloud or, in some cases, even use a combination of both.
Gmail is a good example of using software in the cloud. Unlike a few years ago, there is no need to install an email program in your computer. Gmail (and a number of other online email services) provides both the software and the email messages without installing any software in your computer. It works on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Chromebooks, iPads, iPhones, Android devices, and probably other kinds of computers as well. That is a perfect example of cloud computing.
In fact, the cloud also is an assortment of redundant servers that provide advanced computer applications to corporations, governments, and the general public alike. If any server or if an entire data center goes offline due to hardware failure, a disaster or perhaps due to a simple power failure, other servers in other data centers in other locations step in and take over the load within seconds. Of course, the data also has been previously copied (or “replicated”) to the other data centers as well. The end user typically doesn’t even realize there has been a problem in the server(s) he or she has been using. From the end user’s viewpoint, everything continues to function as expected.
Cloud computing offers many benefits. Not too long ago, many of us worried about losing our documents, photos, and files if something bad happened to our computers, such as a hard drive crash or a virus. Today, our data can migrate beyond the boundaries of our personal computers. Instead, we’re moving our data online, into “the cloud”. If you upload your photos, store critical files online, and use a web-based email service like Gmail or Yahoo! Mail, an 18-wheel truck could run over your laptop, and yet all your data would still remain safely stored in the cloud, accessible from any Internet-connected computer, anywhere in the world.
Cloud-based backup services typically even include the (optional) capability to save all versions of files for weeks, months, or possibly even years. It the file you are working on becomes messed up due to hardware problems or simple user error, it is usually trivial to back ip and go back to the version of the file you were using yesterday or last week, the start again.
One common question is, “How do I connect to the cloud?” If you have an Internet connection, you already have access to the cloud. After all, the cloud is a collection of thousands of different services, and all of them are available to the Internet. However, some of these services may require unique user names and passwords.
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