The Cloud: our future in computing. The end all, be all for our file storage woes.
But what the heck is the “Cloud?”
The Cloud is simply put: your hard drive accessed through an Internet connection. The Cloud is made up of servers storing your photos, music, applications, documents, contacts and email all in a place that can be accessed anywhere with a simple log-in.
One of the first examples that made its way into the mainstream was browser-based email. Services such as Yahoo! Mail, Gmail and Hotmail used Internet servers to store and send email from the browser rather than an application running from the desktop. Of course, with these products being introduced as early as 1996, not everyone had Internet access so these services wouldn’t prove useful to many. Take off in your DeLorean to 2012, a time when everyone is rocking a smart phone or laptop and you have the basis for a huge intertwine of devices ready for the Cloud.
With the Cloud hitting the mainstream, companies have started implementing their own storage services and online applications to use them. Google Docs uses the Cloud for documents, spreadsheets and email on ten gigabytes (GB) of Cloud storage. Microsoft uses SkyDrive to host email, contacts and just about any file that the user wants to upload onto 25 GB of storage. As of fall 2011, Apple introduced iCloud to store photos, and sync documents, music apps and game saves automatically across iPads, iPhones, iPods and Macs owned by one account.
Clearly, not all services are created equal. Some (iCloud, Amazon Cloud) act more as a backup and proliferation method while others (SkyDrive, Google Cloud) act as a hard drive where you can choose what is uploaded.
Online storage will of course make those of you wearing tinfoil hats very wary. Who can see my files? What if my internet goes out?! Oh the humanity! These things are still being worked out seeing as the Cloud is still in its infancy. The European Union found itself in a funny situation last year when it realized that its files were being hosted on the Cloud in America (you mad, bro?).
All the Cloud amounts to is a big bunch of servers storing files and running programs for you. Where you leave off in your essay on your laptop will shoot off to the Cloud and land on your phone. It’s a great future; DeLorean not required.