(+) A Simple Explanation of Cloud Computing

The following is a Plus Edition article, written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Many of the articles in this newsletter refer to “the cloud.” Feedback from several newsletter readers indicates that not everyone understands what a “cloud” is in the Internet world. I thought I would publish this introduction to cloud computing and also explain how cloud computing is used to provide digital images of census records to millions of online genealogists.

A number of companies provide cloud computing services, including Amazon Web Services (often referred to as “AWS”), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, IBM Cloud, Rackspace, Red Hat (recently acquired by IBM), Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage, and several others. To keep things simple, I will describe Amazon simply because it is the largest cloud services provider and is the one that I use the most. However, I believe most of the other cloud service providers are similar in operation.

Amazon Web Services and most of the other cloud providers offer a number of services, including file storage, bulk email services, or running programs in the large cloud servers. Again, I will focus on file storage services because that is both the most popular cloud-based service and also the one that genealogists use the most. If I receive enough requests, I will describe other cloud-based services in future articles.

Amazon? I thought that was an online retailer!

Yes, this is the same Amazon that is well known as a huge online retailer. Amazon started in business as an online bookstore but has since expanded into selling all sorts of retail products. The company had to build huge data centers in order to handle the workload of its own retail customers. In effect, Amazon first created its own “cloud” for internal company use.

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