The Cloud. This phrase, which once only meant the big, puffy things you see in the air, has transformed into a technological catch-all that epitomizes our current culture of interconnectivity. We hear about it everywhere: cloud streaming services has infiltrated our phones, offices, and thanks to the miracle of Netflix, in our homes. Its influence has completely revolutionized the way we work and play, but does anyone really know what the cloud does? Is it like a real cloud? We really don’t float data through the air, do we?
Of course we don’t! Put simply, the cloud is merely a way to store data off of your PC and onto a different computer system through the Internet. The cloud operates through a series of servers – those big, whirring networked computers – all across the world. Companies that offer cloud services have warehouses filled with these servers. When someone accesses or saves a document through a cloud, they’re simply using their Internet connection to access the server that has that information.
While some enterprises may balk at the idea of sending their files and sensitive data to a “new technology,” the truth is that we’ve been trusting the cloud (or at least the concept of the cloud) for years now. We’ve compiled some of the most common uses of cloud computing in the workforce below:
1) Backup and Recovery
Keeping a file recovery and backup plan is probably the first and foremost service enterprises consider when it comes to cloud, as it should be! Businesses that rely heavily on data build off-site storage in the cloud into disaster continuity plans to mitigate any physical damage. Storing their files on a cloud saves an enterprises’ irreplaceable documents and also helps streamline the process of resuming business as usual after any system downtime occurs.
2) File Storage and Transfer
Way back in the days of Ye Olde Dialup, the Internet was barely strong enough to load a web page at a reasonable speed. Connections notoriously cut out, media files took ages to load, and bless your heart if someone try to make a phone call while you were in the middle of a download. It made more sense for people to save files and run programs through their computer’s hard drive, external disk, or a physically connected network, since it was inefficient to do any heavy-lifting through the Internet.
As the development and adoption of high speed Internet came to be, so did the capacity to send and save files through the Internet. Eventually, the concept of keeping documents saved through the cloud was a practical development on both a personal and enterprise level: by saving your files off-site and accessing them via the Internet, you free up extra space in your hard drive, which in turn helps your computer run faster.
Platform-as-a-Service – or PaaS – is a form of cloud computing that allows users to create and deploy web applications without the burden of building and financing expensive hardware in-house. PaaS can save a company a tremendous amount of money and time by outsourcing a bulk of the infrastructure needed to do any computational heavy-lifting, like rendering. PaaS is the most advantageous for startups and small companies that don’t have the resources to pour into their own servers, but can be applied to projects that large companies take on as well.
4) Web Hosting
Similar to PaaS, cloud hosting can provide a stable home for the websites of entrepreneurs and enterprises alike. The benefit of cloud hosting over more traditional hosting services is that the cloud is decentralized – that is to say, your website isn’t stored in just one location, so in the event that physical infrastructure is damaged at one site, your information is also safely stored on a second, connected site. This ensures that your site remains live and functioning, even if physical damage is sustained by the host.
Imagine how annoying it would be passing one singular document back and forth between departments in your office. Thankfully, cloud-based collaboration applications have become the bread and butter of today’s buzzing workforce, allowing for real-time participation and feedback from multiple people across the globe. This not only fosters better communication from officemates and coworkers but makes communication with remote workers, freelancers, and clients much more open, allowing for complete project transparency and direct access to real-time progress.
We can’t help but feel a little sorry for the postal service. After hundreds of years of being an absolute necessity, email swoops in and turns it into a novelty almost overnight, and has held the position as the premier communication tool for the last 25 years or so. Yes, your email is a function of the cloud! Since your inbox is accessible primarily through the Internet, most of it is stored off-site on a separate server. Your instant messaging apps are big cloud users too, while we’re at it.
The below infographic from cloud-computing company SingleHop further illustrates some of the uses of the cloud in our everyday lives. As our technologies continue to integrate an always-connected Internet into their infrastructure, it’s increasingly looking like the cloud is here to stay.