“What’s the cloud?” “Where is the cloud?” “Are we in the cloud now?!” These are all questions you’ve probably heard or even asked yourself. The term “cloud computing” is everywhere.
In fact you have probably “got your head in the clouds” if you haven’t heard of it!
In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer’s hard drive. The cloud is just another name for the Internet. It goes back to the days of graphic power point presentations that would represent the gigantic server-farm infrastructure of the Internet as nothing but a puffy, white cloud, accepting connections and sending out information as it floats.
Cloud computing has nothing at all to do with your hard drive. When you store data on–or run programs from the hard drive, that’s called local storage and computing. Everything you need is physically close to you, which means accessing your data is fast and easy (for that one computer, or others on the local network). Working off your hard drive is how the computer industry functioned for decades and some argue it’s still superior to cloud computing, for reasons I’ll explain shortly.
Cloud computing has nothing at all to do with your office server either. Storing data on a home or office network does not count as utilizing the cloud.
For it to be considered “cloud computing,” you need to access your data or your programs over the Internet, or at the very least, have that data synchronized with other information over the Net. In a big business, you may know all there is to know about what’s on the other side of the connection; as an individual user, you may never have any idea what kind of massive data-processing is happening on the other end. The end result is the same: with an on-line connection, cloud computing can be done anywhere, any time so long as there is connectivity.
When it comes to a business environment, some businesses choose to implement Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), where the business subscribes to an application it accesses over the Internet. There’s also Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), where a business can create its own custom applications for use by all in the company. The aNewSpring Adaptive Learning Platform is a blend of both. There is also Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), where players like Amazon and Google provide a backbone that can be “rented out” by companies.
In the USA of course, cloud computing is already big business with estimates that 80% of large companies in North America are either looking at using cloud services—or already have. The market there is on its way to generating USD $100 billion a year.
Cloud computing is the enabling technology that is allowing a new generation of software to develop. The software is easier to use, adapts to individual needs and offers services on demand.
With South Africa’s bandwidth growing at a fairly rapid pace we are not going to be far behind.