Sunday, June 3, 2012

Since When Did My Computer Start Handling Weather? Or What Is A Cloud?

What is "The Cloud" anyway?


You keep hearing about how "The Cloud" is changing computing forever, and you are wondering just when weather reporting and computing became related subjects. 


(Hopefully the techies out there will not cringe too much, because I admit I am going to oversimply this, but hey, that is the entire point of my blog.)


Truth is that if you ask 10 technical people what "The Cloud" is, you will get 10 different answers. But they will all tend to point in the same direction. The Cloud is the ability to use computing power and storage from powerful providers to make your life more simple.


The best analogy I have is the electric utility. At one point, our ancestors generated their own power. They built a windmill or water mill or something like it. With that came all the maintenance and energy of maintaining the power source. Then the electric utility was born. We attach a meter to the side of the house, measure how much power gets used, and pay for it. Period. We no longer generate our own power, we simply buy what we need from somewhere else that specializes in generating a LARGE amount of power and distributes it to a LARGE group of people or businesses as needed.


If I have a hot day and need more air conditioning, I do not figure out how to generate more power; I simply buy more power. Or if I am on vacation, I buy very little power. I no longer have to adjust up and down how much power I generate, nor do I maintain the whole infrastructure to generate power. So long as I have an electric line running to my home and an agreement to pay for what I use, I have power.


The Cloud is similar. If I need lots of storage, I can buy that from someone else (Google, Dell, Rackspace and Apple are examples) and I no longer need to buy a bunch of hard drives, and install drivers for them, and update them, and back them up. The Cloud provider will do all that for me.


This blog is hosted in The Cloud. I actually have no idea just where this text is literally stored. Perhaps Montana, or Oregon, or a few steps from the beach in Miami. And that is the whole point...I don't have to know. I just use it.


You are using The Cloud now. Facebook is essentially in The Cloud. Do you really know where your unfortunate pictures from last night are literally stored? No. That is Facebook's problem to manage, and they just let you access it (and they let all your friends see too! Lucky you!)


The Cloud is not in a single place, or on a particular computer. Rather The Cloud is an idea that you can simply use what you need rather than having to maintain a bunch of computer infrastructure in-house.


Businesses are using The Cloud to reduce their costs, because instead of maintaining a lot of infrastructure (and paying employees to run it), they buy Cloud capacity and leave all that hardware maintenance to someone else who does it on a LARGE scale. Depending on what they use, they pay fees and they get on with their actual business rather than deal with the infrastructure.


So don't be scared by The Cloud. You use it every day, and it helps you avoid maintaining a bunch of computers and lets you get to your important business (like removing that unfortunate Facebook photo.)