In a recent survey by Wakefield Research commissioned by Citrix, one thousand Americans were asked about their understanding of Cloud Computing . The end result showed that while more than half claim they never use it, 95 percent of that same group actually does use it, and on a regular basis. So I hope to clarify a few things about what exactly cloud computing is.
First, it has nothing to do with the weather, clouds that float through the sky, or pillows – some of the actual responses to the above-mentioned survey. My simplest and most general definition is that it is storage or processing that happens on servers in remote locations, accessed via the internet.
So what would qualify as cloud computing? Here are a few examples:
• Social networking, like Facebook, Twitter, and Linked-in.
• Email services like Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft's Outlook.com or Office365 services
• File Sharing Services like Skydrive or Dropbox
• Online backup services like Mozy, Iron Mountain, or Carbonite
• Online Games via Facebook like Farmville and Bejewled Blitz or standalone, such as SimCity online, or even PokerStars.net
These are just a few examples, many of which are used by typical computer users on both PC and Mac, iPhone/iPad, Android, Windows Phone, or even BlackBerry – most not even knowing they are using cloud services. In fact, we often hear from clients who come into our office that they don't want to use "the cloud", but when asked if they use an email service, I can honestly say that all of them do.
If it's not running on your computer or stored on your computer, it's likely a cloud service.
We also get asked a lot about the security of these services. Yes, occasionally you hear about them having some kind of security problem – getting hacked and taken offline or records stolen, but there are also many stories about offices getting broken into and their hard drives stolen (along with the data of their customers). There are always security risks but it's my opinion that the security you are able to supply for yourself against physical or logical attack is less sophisticated than what companies like Microsoft and EMC are able to provide and most times a "hybrid approach", one employing both on-site and off-site options is usually the most beneficial.
So the next time that you are online checking your status, checking your mail, or checking the sports scores, remember that you are probably using cloud computing. More and more, it is becoming an everyday thing used by nearly anyone who is "connected".
1 ^ http://tinyurl.com/cdo5sxd, DeCarlis, Kim. "Most Americans Confused By Cloud Computing According to National Survey," Citrix.com, 2012-08-28.