What is the cloud and how to make the most use of it

When asked the question ‘What is the cloud?’ you may have looked up at the sky and responded with ‘Well, first of all there isn’t only one, and it depends; it could be cumulus, stratus,  stratocumulus or cumulonimbus?’ But this isn’t a lesson from your primary school Geography lesson days.

I’m sure at this stage of the digital evolution you know a little bit about what the cloud is, and hopefully your grandmother has heard of the term too, not when discussing the weather, but within the context of the ICT (information and communication technology) sector.

How did the cloud originate?

In the beginning, the ‘cloud’ was something that people almost feared. It was seen as mystical and dangerous and almost seemed to be out of a fairytale book. There was uncertainty about security and where it was actually located. “It can’t just be up there, hanging in cyberspace, what is it going to do with my files and how do I get them back down again?”

What most people don’t realise is that they are probably already using the cloud without even knowing it. What it is, in a nutshell, is software and services that run on the internet rather than on your computer or those really expensive servers businesses use to store their company files.

The cloud originated from the idea that businesses and people needed a more efficient way of storing information. A way that was secure, cost-effective and easier to manage than your own servers or external hard drives.

The cloud is efficient and secure
The cloud is efficient and secure

What can I use the cloud for?

  • The great thing about the cloud is you can access files and systems from anywhere, as long as you have a good fibre internet connection. The computing power is also far superior to any internal office network you may have set up and you can buy as much space as you want. You don’t need to worry about things like storage space limits.
  • Although you can deploy cloud computing in several different ways you need to take into consideration where the services are hosted, security requirements (read our blog on how to create a strong password as a start), customisation capabilities, to meet the unique needs of your business, management services and online support.
  • Think of platforms like YouTube. When you upload a video to YouTube of your cute, furry kitten chasing a ball of wool, that video is hosted on the cloud. When you download that video again you download it from the cloud otherwise, how would you be able to get millions of views of that cute ball of fluff? You are not hosting that video for viewers on your computer nor are you hosting the video on your server at the office, no; it is being hosted “in the cloud”.
Your YouTube videos are hosted in the cloud
Your YouTube videos are hosted in the cloud

There are three types of cloud deployment

  1. Public deployment
    Where the services are provided off-site over the internet. Although this cloud service, like Google Drive, is really efficient, they are not as secure as private cloud services.
  2. Private cloud services
    These are maintained on a private network. These cloud services offer better security measures and a sense of control but they will cost you more. An example is Microsoft Office 365.
  3. Hybrid cloud services
    This is a blend of both public and private cloud computing services. The hybrid option is nice because you can spread your needs out across different options and then start to reduce your costs. Some of the challenges may be integration between the different platforms including different security measures.

Some other cool things about our white, puffy friend

  • Another cool thing about cloud-based services is that you pay monthly and when you want to cancel, you cancel. Wouldn’t it be great if some of the bigger cellular network companies operated like that.
  • Also, for personal use, a lot of the services available have free options that are more than sufficient. Just remember though that if you are using a mobile device the cloud does chow your data while using it.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, if you use the cloud and your device is suddenly destroyed by a meteor, not to worry, your information like photos, videos, music, writing and important business documents doesn’t go with it because, it’s all in the cloud, and your information can still be accessed when you up and running again.
If your computer or servers get destroyed you still have your information
If your computer or servers get destroyed you still have your information

Final thought

Don’t be afraid of what the cloud is, it’s not pie-in-the-sky stuff, it really works well and makes you and your business or schoolwork or personal administration at home much more efficient and safer.

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