Cloud computing 101 – Intro for the time-poor marketer
For marketers, salespeople and anyone who regularly touches a pc, the newest phenomenon is precipitating fundamental change in how we access technology.
What is ‘The Cloud’?
It wasn’t goodbye ago the generation was born that may have a look at the enduring shiny compact disc, once the staple medium for music distribution, and ask ‘What the heck is that?’ An analogous generation would look quizzically on the handle once used to ‘wind down’ the window of a car. The similar fate is fast befalling what used to be considered the vital organ of a working laptop or computer in conjunction with its CPU: the hard disk drive – the cast metal brick deep within the bowels of your desktop or laptop, used to store all of the documents, photos, music and the rest you’d envisage to be ‘on your computer’.
The concept of ‘cloud computing’ is not just redefining what we deliberate to be ‘on our computers’ inside the first place, but also is creating one more technological sea change in how we work, play and usually interact.
To understand the fundamental concept of cloud computing, consider an easy document, similar to the only you’re reading now. Traditionally, this document will be stored on my computer’s hard disk drive, such that i’ll access it to edit, print or email it to another individual. But what if my PC were stolen? Or, as is far more common, if my harddrive were to crash or if someone were to spill coffee on my laptop? If I were a tad smarter, i’d have a backup file somewhere, but what if that were also stolen or curious about a flood or fire? Because the document resides at the physical computer that i am engaged on, in these cases it’d be lost forever.
With cloud computing, i’d never have saved this document ‘locally’ on my computer’s harddrive, but rather via the web onto some magical, invisible harddrive, that not just am i able to neither see nor touch, but do not know where it’s physically located (perhaps you can begin to determine where the term ‘cloud’ comes from). You might imagine that this simply moves those self same issues to a couple other physical location, albeit distant out of your computer or mobile device. Not likely. Storage that’s said to be ‘in the cloud’, apart from being well-guarded and in much safer locations than your house PC or laptop, is not really stored in only one place. Multiple copies of your documents exist on servers that likely span multiple cities and, every now and then, even countries or continents. So your data is safe, a minimum of from an accidental loss standpoint.
So, by signing as much as a ‘cloud’ service, you will find you could use that service to store your documents (pictures, music, videos etc) via a 3rd party’s website. Just sign on via the web and you’ll see your whole ‘stuff ‘ just as you’re used to seeing in your hard disk drive – view it, print it, email it or delete it. So that’s fairly easy to grasp with data, but what about software? Surely a difficult drive continues to be had to store your copy of Word, PowerPoint or iTunes? Not anymore. Cloud services are currently being deployed with a model often known as ‘software as a service’, or SaaS. In this sort of system, while you go online for your cloud account, you will note your documents and programs, as though your typical desktop – but it is all stored ‘in the cloud’, so that you never must worry about damage or lack of your PC or laptop, not only for data, but on your programs in addition. All that should be stored in your device itself is the operating system and a few style of cloud client, that may be so simple as an online browser.
One major benefit of cloud computing is so you might go online in your cloud account from any workstation. So, in case you are taking place vacation, and do not need to carry your hefty laptop around with you, no problem. You will see your hotel’s business centre, log in on your cloud account on its computers, and work and play just as though you were at home, or pull out your smartphone or tablet PC. Same as though you’re at your friend’s house for dinner, and suddenly realise you’ll want to update a terrific contract and email it to a shopper.
In fact, plenty of people are using the cloud almost daily and never realising it. In the event you use Hotmail, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter or anything similar, wonder where your emails and standing updates actually ‘are’. They are not for your local computer, as you may access those services from any device, anywhere, and send or read emails, and update your status. These internetbased services are examples of cloud computing getting used by millions of folks.
In summary, cloud computing is a method of working, playing and interacting without being tied in your specific device, be it a house PC, laptop or, more importantly, your mobile device with its limited storage and computing power.
Many of you at this point would be asking yourselves, “Well then, who does have all my stuff? Isn’t it risky to simply put all my important and sensitive stuff ‘out there’?” The quick answer is: yes it’s, absolutely. However, the subsequent risks aren’t presented as a sort of scaremongering, or to dissuade the reader from using cloud computing of their daily activities. Rather, they’re presented as questions that needs to be asked when choosing what to place into the cloud and what to maintain to your ‘local’ system (under your control), and which cloud vendor to take advantage of to fit your specific needs.
As far as who’s taking care of all of your precious memories and banking details goes, it is dependent upon who you have chose as your cloud organization. Famous person companies like Google, Apple and Amazon all offer cloud services and, for essentially the most part, may well be considered a secure bet. But, for more specialised applications, there are a bunch of vendors, and the dangers are rampant.
The commonest fear is: what happens in case your vendor goes into chapter 11? Smaller tech companies are notoriously volatile, and in the event that they have your entire documents and applications, then sooner or later shut their doors, not just might you never see your data again, but who’s to prevent them selling their servers to assist recover losses and pay their debts? Will they wipe their hard drives before they sell them off? Another risk is as mentioned before, copies of your data and programs are being stored in multiple locations, and likely in multiple countries. There are, however, many directives being issued by governments (the ecu being an outstanding example) that prevent cloud storage outside in their national boundaries, but it truly is still in a state of a few disarray in lots of geographical areas. Because of this privacy and intellectual property rules and regulations may or would possibly not turn out to be applying for your stuff, within the way you suspect they might in your house country. This can be OK for pictures of your dog dressed up for Halloween, but, in case you are collaborating on a hot new game-changing idea, be cautious.
The security of the info itself also is a large concern. One of the cloud providers’ servers could be in secure bunkers, but some might be being run by a school kid in his mother’s basement, and who has access to the info may be anyone’s guess. Given how valuable personal information, even just an email address, may be to a spammer, a server administrator could always be tempted to ‘leak’ some information here and there.
Many cloud providers promise to encrypt your data, in case of a safety breach. But encrypt with what? They can be using an encryption system from the times of Alexander the comprehensive, or the most recent in leading edge cryptographic technology.
Even sticking with the enormous names will not be a secure option. Have you ever read the entire new Google privacy policies? Remember when Facebook slipped into its verbiage how it’d own the rights to all of the pictures you uploaded? Were you aware , for instance, in case you upload something in your cloud corporation of choice, who then actually owns the rights to that tremendous one-of-a-kind picture you took of Lindsay Lohan falling out of her car drunk?
So what do you do?
Like any new technology, cloud computing seems in the beginning like a quagmire of risks and benefits, of life-changing opportunities and enterprise-destroying mistakes. As always, the major guideline to entering such new technologies is to understand and trust who you’re handling.
Regardless of whether you’re coping with a giant name corporation or a Silicon Valley tech start-up, do your research. Understand why you will need the cloud within the first place, and what services you want them for. The important thing point is to invite questions and do your homework.
Cloud symbol by Andrew Forrester, from The Noun Project collection.
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