Cloud computing is an informal term for a system of providing computing services over the Internet, which is referred to as the “cloud.” Shared resources are provided to individual computers on demand. It may sound like something that is developed recently with the World Wide Web but the concept is much older, dating back at least to 1966, when Canadian technologist Douglas Parkhill, in his book “the Challenge of the Computer Utility,” described online sharing of information and other things now associated with cloud storage. All kinds of files can be stored in this way— text files, photographs, music, movies, and slide shows.
Experts claim that cloud computing is cheaper than conventional forms of storage. One reason for this is that a third party provides the infrastructure which the user does not have to purchase unless he makes use of it often. The cloud may also prove to be a more secure method of storage as the provider is often able to devote resources to security in a way that the client cannot; also, the files are still being stored intact even if those on the original machine have been lost due to a crash. Other advantages of virtual storage include:
– the ability to access a system independently of one’s location or of the particular computer being used
– greater efficiency in performance, as resources are shared among machines using a central server
– higher quality of images stored; these images can also be shared simply by giving another user the URL where they are stored without having to use a flash drive or burn
– better use of resources
Some users have complained about the lack of control over the cloud server, which may result in the unintended release of sensitive information. However, such concerns may be addressed by the requirement of a password to access certain things.
Amazon has been a leading force in the field of cloud computing. Their Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) provides “complete control over computing resources” and also makes it easier to scale up and down to accommodate any new computing requirements. Additionally, EC2 is very flexible—the customer has the choice of three “instances,” on reserve (paying by the hour), demand (discounts on usage by the hour), and spot (this involves bidding on unused storage space)— and it can be used in tandem with other Amazon services, including Simple Queue and Simple Service.
Google is another cloud pioneer. People who work for the same company often use theirs to share information even when away from work. And if customers decide that they no longer wish to use the service, they can have their data taken out.
Cloud computing has a bright, expansive future ahead of it. Morgan Stanley, of Orange Business has estimated that by 2015, the web service will be bigger on mobile than it is on desktop!