You’ve probably heard of “the Cloud” or “cloud computing” even if you don’t fully understand these terms. In fact, you probably use some kind of cloud technology on a daily basis.
From a user standpoint, cloud computing consists of services or software that you access via the Internet, rather than on your local hard drive. Gmail, Netflix, iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive – these are all cloud-based services. Your personal data, along with the service itself, exist on a network of remote servers that you access by simply going to the appropriate webpage or app and entering your username and password.
To understand how the Cloud works from a technical standpoint, let’s do a little visualization. In order for the Cloud to work, we need two basic technologies: the first one is virtualization. Virtualization technology gives us the ability to create a virtual machine that isn’t tied to any particular hardware. Imagine this machine as a cloud that “floats” on a network. Unlike physical machines, virtual machines can move with ease from one location to another. This is all good, but useless if all our servers don’t cooperate together.
This brings us to the next requirement to enable a secure and stable Cloud environment: clustering. An appropriate visualization to represent a cluster is an office full of people where the least busy workers are going around helping the others. The workers in this case represent servers. For clustering to work, these servers must work in harmony and know what each other are doing. Server communication is essential; this way, if one server fails (since we all know it’s never the technician’s fault!), the other ones will automatically take up its workload. The same thing also happens if one of them has too much work – the others step in to help complete the task.
A major benefit of cloud computing is reliability. If your important data or software is located across many servers, you won’t lose it when your hard drive crashes or a single server in the network fails. You can also access the software you need across multiple devices, such as your work PC, your home laptop, and your mobile devices.
A downside of the Cloud is the potential for data security breaches. Any information stored online is vulnerable to attack by hackers, so cloud security measures are integral for a well-functioning cloud. A recent example of a cloud security breach is the hacker who used phishing and other techniques to obtain many celebrities’ iCloud account information and release the celebrities’ personal photos to the wider Internet.
As we increasingly require access to our data and services wherever we go and on whatever device we happen to be using, cloud computing is expected to continue growing at a rapid pace. Essentially, the future of cloud computing is the future of computing itself..