What is the Cloud?


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For many of us, we are familiar with the term ‘Cloud’. No, we aren’t talking about the fluffy ones in the sky that produce rain but more an imaginary cloud where data is stored. For those of you who aren’t as familiar with the term, simply put the Cloud is a network of servers which each have a different function. Some clouds provide an online service whilst other clouds (networks of servers) allow users to store their data – mainly pictures, documents etc. Cloud storage solutions are now used for both personal and business purposes across the globe and its use continues to grow.

The history of the Cloud

If you were to trace the history of the cloud then there were versions of it available as early as the 1950’s but it was only in 2006, with Amazon launching its own version of the cloud, that this way of storing data became so widely used. Now Amazon’s cloud service, AWS, is used by thousands of companies across 190 countries by businesses such as Instagram and Pinterest.

Forward a decade and the Cloud has become an integral part of daily life. Most of the time we don’t even realise we are using it but think about your everyday activity and just how much cloud storage we use. Are you on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? Where is all this data stored? Where do the endless reams of photos, status updates and videos go? All of this data is stored in clouds. Google Drive and iDrive use a cloud.

What does the Cloud mean for business?

To keep up and assist with recent technological advancements companies have had to move their data from their internal hardware servers to cloud storage providers. Not only is it more cost effective it is also safer and the added benefit of cloud backups means that if a server goes down there is another one right there to back it up. Not only do they save money but imagine how much space is saved by the removal of such huge servers needed by companies to conduct their daily business. There are still businesses that operate with a network of physical servers on their premises with teams of IT specialists operating them on site. This is an expensive way to run a business and more and more companies are now using cloud solutions as an effective way to save money and cut down on resources.

It’s comical really if you think back to the days when moving files from one destination to another required the use of a USB stick or even a floppy disk! It’s hard to imagine that we ever used to store our files on this tiny stick and carry it around with us. Now we just log on to the cloud from our phone or computer and our files are accessible wherever we are in the world. You don’t have to save work down to take home and complete at the weekend – you just log on and access it wherever you are. You don’t always need to be on a computer. With the evolvement of digital technology more and more is possible on a Smartphone and business can be conducted from a handheld device just as effectively as behind a computer screen, largely thanks to the cloud.

The cloud has opened up a whole new way of remote working, remote access enables businesses to operate from anywhere in the world and the efficiency and speed at which we can operate are far more advanced than ever before.

How safe is the Cloud?

The issue of security does make some users wary. Whilst they are happy to store their pictures and other less sensitive information there when it comes to personal or sensitive details they are less willing to do so. Whilst most Cloud services offer security encryption used by the military and financial institutions people still seem to be nervous of the accessibility to others.

How big is the Cloud?

This is a very good question and one that no-one really knows the answer to. How much space can Google and Facebook provide before their network of servers finally groan under the pressure of all of the data stored and finally say “no more”? It is thought that the cloud can store about an exabyte. What is an exabyte we hear you ask? Well, one exabyte of memory can hold the same as 4.2 million MacBook Pro hard drives and that’s a lot of data!