What is Cloud computing?
In basic terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and software over the Internet instead of from your computer’s hard drive. The cloud is just a metaphor for the Internet. It stems from the days of flowcharts and presentations that would represent the gigantic server-farm infrastructure of the Internet as nothing but a puffy, white cloud, accepting connections and doling out information from where it floats. It is the delivery of on-demand computing resources, usually on a pay for use basis.
If you’re using programs or data storage that is not on your hard drive, but resides on the internet, you are using the cloud. Benefits primarily include:
- Apps and data accessible from any connected computer
- No data is lost if your computer breaks down, as it’s not residing on your computer
- Scales on demand, depending on usage
- No need to invest in your own hardware, which especially for businesses can be quite expensive
- Shared computing resources aka resource pools
- On-demand self-service. Anyone with a browser can subscribe to cloud services. This is a technology first.
If there are cons to cloud computing they are either context dependent – make sure it’s the right tool for the right job – or related to concerns about the security. A company may make customer facing data available in the cloud, while a customer’s private profile or credit card data, which requires more security than accessibility, may go to a private server.
Security and privacy remain two of the most critical cloud computing concerns. In addition to the usual threat of cyber-attacks, you add a layer of exposure when you subscribe to public cloud services. While the majority of responsibility here lies in the provider’s hands, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure security.
- Read the user agreement or talk with the provider directly to find out how your cloud service is secured.
- Avoid storing sensitive information in the cloud.
- Be serious about using strong passwords.
- Use software to encrypt your data before moving it to the cloud or use an encrypted cloud service.
Achieving sufficient security measures in the cloud is possible, and with a proper understanding of what the cloud is and how to best protect your data with good passwords, encryption and a reliable service provider, you can rest assured that you’ve done your part and can enjoy the convenience and ultra efficiency of cloud computing.