Cloud computing is a relatively new technology that seems to be taking the computing world by storm. If you are like most people, you may have heard the term, but aren’t entirely sure how cloud computing works. Fear not: cloud computing can be broken down into terms you can easily and thoroughly understand. Once you have a grasp on how this technology works, you’ll have a sense of why it’s both so talked-about and highly anticipated, and perhaps want to try it for yourself.
The Software Dilemma
A great number of corporations and organizations today depend on employees having access to computers and certain computer programs in the workplace. To provide this access, companies must purchase not only a computer, but also software licenses for each and every employee. For fast-growing and large companies, the cost of supplying each individual with these tools can become extremely expensive and make difficult demands of the company’s budget.
The Solution Cloud computing presents an alternative solution to organizations that require software for a large number of people. Rather than installing programs on each computer, cloud computing allows multiple computers to access a single application of the program (hosted on multiple remote computers) through a network. Individual computers would require only interface software, sometimes as simple as a web browser, to access the cloud computing system. Imagine the possibility of hundreds, maybe thousands, of computers accessing a single suite of programs—anything from e-mail, to word processing, to data analysis—remotely. It’s a technology with the potential to significantly cut organizational costs and it has already started to revolutionize the computing industry.
A User-friendly Model
You’ve probably already encountered some form of cloud computing without even realizing it. Take, for example, web-based e-mail services, like Gmail and Hotmail. These services allow you to access a web-based or “virtual” email, rather than installing an email program on your computer. Considering this example, you can begin to see how cloud computing shifts the workload from local computers to remote computers. It’s a network designed to ultimately reduce the demand for software and hardware on the user’s end.
Security and Privacy – Two Important Concerns
Two of the greatest concerns surrounding cloud computing technology are security as well as privacy. Protecting user and company information is always an important priority when it comes to anything related to the internet. The “virtualization” of software that is required to implement the cloud computing system presents some unique challenges in the way ensuring that this information is protected and also the challenge of ensuring that the virtualization software itself isn’t compromised. The infographic “Looking Beyond the Challenges of Securing Virtual Environments” illustrates virtualization-specific issues that can introduce security threats to a corporate network.
In addition to the security threats posed by virtualization, the ability to access data and applications from any location invites well-warranted privacy concerns. Anyone who’s had the unfortunate experience of having a personal e-mail or bank account hacked knows the repercussions can be devastating to no end. For this significant reason, authentication measures, like usernames and passwords, and authorization measures, like tailoring the access privileges of users to specific data only, are potential ways to counteract these risks.
Questions of Rights and Ownership
Since cloud computing allows data and programs to be stored and accessed virtually, the technology presents some interesting questions concerning the right to access data, and the ownership of the data and the cloud computing system itself. As with many web-based technologies, cloud computing has its challenges, but, one thing is for certain: the technology is extremely promising for businesses, organizations and the computing industry as a whole.
About the Author
Eric Rogers is a part-time writer and full-time techie. His background includes extensive education and work experience concerning computer and electronic engineering. He received a degree from one of the nation’s top schools and has worked with several Fortune 500 companies.