I recently watched a movie in which the male lead character frustratedly stated, “Nobody understands the cloud, it’s a ******* mystery!” The frustration stemmed from an encounter with the cloud whereby a very personal file was shared with a large group of people, and due to a lack of knowledge of how it all worked, he was unable to remove everyone’s access to this file.
Cloud computing has certainly become a popular buzzword, appearing more than 48 million times on the internet. As we mentioned in a previous post, it is defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as “a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”
What does that even mean?
As a constantly evolving concept, there has not been one definitive answer to this question yet. In fact, the NIST even states that “cloud computing can and does mean different things to different people”. However, below are a few simple approaches that may assist you with a better grasp of the technology.
So what is cloud computing, in plain English?
“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 a metaphor for the Internet.” – PC Mag
Let’s think back a couple of decades. If you had files stored in your computer at home that you needed for work, it was common sense to store these files onto a Floppy Disk and bring it to work. As technology moved forward, these were then replaced with Zip Drives, CDs and USB Flash Drives. Fast forward to now, we are taking the next step to the idea of bringing our data with us everywhere. However, rather than having a need to carry a physical storage device with us, we can now store our files in a remote location hosted by a cloud provider, and these can be accessed anywhere via the internet.
Where is the cloud?
Depending on the provider you are with, the location of the cloud you are using would vary based on the location of their servers.
How big is the cloud?
How do I start using the cloud?
Chances are you’re already using it. Do you use Gmail for your emails? Or have your iPhone photos stored on the iCloud? Or files stored on Microsoft’s OneDrive? Or ever used Dropbox? These are some of the most common cloud-based systems, which a lot of us are already familiar with and are often pre-installed on your new phones or tablets. The Australian Communications and Media Authority recently released a report which found that nearly 14 million people in Australia aged 18 years and older had actively used cloud computer services in the past six months. That’s about 80 per cent of the adult population.
In a business environment, you are able to contact your cloud service provider to find out how your business can make the move to the cloud. How much you move over is your choice, depending on your service level agreement, and you will also have the choice of whether you want to manage your own system or opt for packages that also manage your servers for you. The benefit of the cloud is that it is customisable and scalable, so solutions are tailor made to your business needs and budget, facilitating business agility and seamless growth.
Who is going to see what I put on the cloud?
Put simply, anyone with granted access. Think about your Gmail, iCloud or Dropbox account. You need a login and password to access the data that is in there, however you also have the option to share particular items with your friends or colleagues should you wish to do so.
When you utilise the cloud with your cloud service provider, they should be able to assure you that your important business data is stored in secure data centres. Permissions can also be set up to ensure that only approved personnel are able to access your files, with various levels of access for different people.
Hopefully the above points have assisted in your understanding of this big “mystery”. And for those who have watched the same movie as I have, the main takeaway is that if you are unsure of how it works, it probably is best to seek assistance from someone who is more familiar with the technology, such as your cloud service provider. In the case of the male lead character, he went through a series of tiring and somewhat horrific adventures to physically delete his file from each device, only to find out at the end that he could have done so remotely in the click of a button.