Like so many technical terms that seem to creep into our everyday lexicon, “cloud computing” is a term we hear often, even though its actual definition may be unclear.
There was a time — not too long ago — when words like “server,” “hosting,” and even “blog” crept to ubiquity while still baffling many casual users of the early Web. For many, “cloud computing” is equally mysterious. But there’s a very good chance that you’re already using cloud computing in your daily life. Whether at work or at home, cloud computing is everywhere, even if you don’t realize it.
Here are some common ways you may already be using the cloud:
Offsite Server Access: If you have a personal or professional website, you’re probably using a cloud-based server. Cloud-based servers allow you to host your site without having racks and racks of servers taking up space in your home or office. Plus, you can access your data from anywhere with a web-enabled device.
Offsite Data Storage: Like offsite server access, offsite data storage enables its users to keep their data in the cloud rather than on a physical device like a hard drive or a USB stick. If you’ve ever stored a document, photo, or video somewhere on the web that you can access remotely, then you’re using cloud-based data storage.
Information Security: Many small businesses don’t have the budget or infrastructure to employ full-time Information Security professionals. Instead, they often turn to large providers of remote security services to protect their data and scan it for viruses, malware, and other threats. These services are often bundled with server and storage packages by large hosting providers. Unless your company has a robust IT department with dedicated security resources, it’s likely that you’re information is kept secure via the cloud.
Remote Desktop Access: When your presentation is on your home computer, but you need it for a meeting that starts in five minutes, what do you do? It’s likely that you turn to the cloud. There are many services that offer remote desktop access via the web so users can utilize their web-enabled device to log in to a computer in another physical location.
Open Collaboration: Anyone who’s worked on a project with a large team of collaborators knows the pain of emailing documents back and forth through countless revisions. It gets confused and cluttered almost immediately. However, many professionals are turning to cloud-based collaboration solutions like Apple’s iCloud, Google Docs, or hosted SharePoint. These applications allow multiple users to access and alter documents without the pain of emailing. The documents themselves live in a single location within the cloud and are accessible by any web-enabled device and eliminate the need for an inbox full of attachments.
Special thanks to Ryan Galloway who is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City and who blogs for Rackspace Hosting.