In this post, I’m going to attempt to peel back the curtain on something that most people have heard about, but might not fully understand – the Cloud.
So, what exactly is the Cloud?
Well, that can be a tricky question to answer, as the Cloud can be many things to many different people. Simply put, the Cloud is about making internet hosting accessible to more people.
When the internet was first becoming popular, it was very costly to have any sort of presence. You would first have to buy your own hardware – an investment of thousands. Then, you’d need to find an operator to store and run it for you for an ongoing fee. This normally came with a multi-year commitment, given space in these data centres was limited and they wanted to be selling it as efficiently as possible. Also, since you owned the hardware you were entirely responsible for its maintenance, and obsolescence was always looming, requiring you to start the process over again. The investment was just too massive for smaller operators, especially individuals, to justify.
Fast forward a couple of decades and now large companies like Google and Microsoft have built enormous data centres packed with thousands of machines. These centres are in most countries, typically in and around major cities. The machines they host belong to them, so they take care of keeping everything up-to-date, and their clients reap the benefits.
These data centres, and the services that are offered from them, are what collectively make up the Cloud.
Thanks to advancements in technology, they are able take slices of this computing power and rent them to basically anybody. You can take as large or as small a slice as you need, and in many cases even pay by the hour. No commitment, no significant outlay, walk away at any time. Sounds amazing, right? But what would an individual use this incredible power for?
What is Cloud Storage?
Probably the most useful application of this technology for the individual is Cloud storage. Services like Dropbox, Google’s Drive, and Apple’s iCloud will allocate you an amount of disk storage which you can use to house your files, and you’ll usually pay a monthly fee for the privilege.
Storing your treasured photos or important documents in the Cloud can bring many benefits.
First, they are almost universally accessible. If you have an internet connection, you have all your files with you, wherever you are. Plus, most storage offerings have mobile apps that make it a breeze to reach your files from your phone or tablet.
Another great reason to keep your files in the Cloud is that you’ll have a backup, and a good one at that. Keeping your files on a portable hard drive is a great option, but the sad fact is, they die, usually taking your files with them. Most Cloud storage providers keep redundant copies of everything they store so that even if a piece of their hardware meets an untimely end, they’ve got several other copies, safe and sound.
Are my files secure?
Naturally at the point you may be asking yourself ‘Are my files secure?’ No doubt you’ve heard terrifying tales of recent “hacks” that have resulted in people’s files being accessed without permission. To put it bluntly, no system on the Internet is impervious to hackers. Great advancements have been made in digital security in recent times, but the sophistication of the nefarious characters trying to break in will always grow with them.
However, that fact shouldn’t deter you, and there are many things you can do to make the hacker’s job that much more difficult. I’ll talk about some of these methods in a future post.
Hopefully this post has shed a bit of light on the Cloud. As I alluded to at the beginning, the topic is far too broad to cover in a single post. Stay tuned for future instalments where we dig deeper into how you and your business can benefit from the Cloud.