The cloud is a relatively new term to describe a pretty old computer concept. Basically, “the cloud” is an easy way to describe online file storage. Imagine that you have hundreds of pictures and albums that you want to share or have easy access to. You subscribe to an online service like www.flickr.com and upload your pictures. Suddenly, you can share your photos by simply providing a link to your album. Even better, you can view and manage your files from any computer in the world (provided you have an internet connection).
While online media storage is what most people are referring to when they mention “the cloud” it should be noted that there are numerous other applications for this sort of network configuration. Cloud based computing can help businesses streamline their IT solutions by proving their employees with access to programs that aren’t locally hosted or managed. Basically, this means that a central server (or ‘the cloud’) can let a user run Microsoft Word without having to install the program on the user’s machine. This can even be used for other web applications such as online banking or e-commerce.
The advantages of cloud computing are increased efficiency, centralization and security. Every business needs to backup its data. How many times is enough? On how many mediums? How secure are the backups? To answer these questions, a business or individual would have to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars implementing servers and network infrastructure. Host companies that manage and offer cloud services can spread out all of these costs across their millions of customers.
Is the cloud safe and secure? Yes. It is far more secure and reliable than a home made solution. However, there are concerns over the privacy of your data and the sustainability of the host company. In light of the recent megaupload.com shutdown, it is strongly advised that you use multiple backup solutions just in case!