What is The Cloud?

  • September 7 2016, 10:29 am

  • by Wes Sovis

  • General

Out with the Old, In with the Future

I was doing some cleaning over the weekend and stumbled across an ancient relic that I hadn't seen in probably ten years. This piece of technology, at one time retailing for over $300, was only worth keeping around for its exceptionally proficient use as a paper weight. It was an external hard drive that I had purchased just before a new, fascinating technology came about that rendered the external hard drive obsolete. I'm speaking, of course, about the cloud.  

But when we discuss the cloud, how many of us actually understand what that means? Sure, we trust our pictures, music, and work with cloud computing services without thinking twice. But what is the cloud? Where is our data?  And more interestingly, is the external hard drive really obsolete?

What is the Cloud? 

The cloud is far from a new technology. For decades, data centers, usually the size of large rooms, contained a huge computer mainframe, with individual computers accessing the mainframe through terminals. The individual computers utilized the mainframe's processing power and data to perform their various tasks, as nothing was stored on the individual computer. Even the "programs," the forefather of applications, were stored and ran on these mainframes. 

In modern times, the cloud operates in much the same way. My music is stored on Apple's servers and streamed to my phone on-demand. The benefit of this is better performance on my phone, more internal storage on my device, and unlimited storage on Apple's servers for a relatively small price. It's a bargain if you think about. Almost unlimited storage, access to any song I want, for just .99 per month? It sure beats buying a few servers of my own and keeping them in my basement. 

Benefits of the Cloud

And that, in a nutshell, is the main benefit of cloud technology. Apple (to continue with our example) builds data centers to store users' music, photos, and data, and we consumers split the cost of the cost and use Apple's extensive infrastructure at minimal costs to ourselves.  

Web applications are another example of using the cloud to make life a little easier. Think about how you use Google Docs. Your co-worker sends you a document and asks you to make revisions. After a few lines, it's clear that reading and editing the document on your smartphone isn't going to be sufficient to make the necessary corrections. You move to a laptop and access the document there - your cursor and previous alterations are exactly where you left off on your phone. It's this ability to access data, in its myriad of forms and purposes, quickly and efficiently, that have made cloud technology so prevalent, useful, and attractive for businesses and consumers alike. 

What Can You Do with the Cloud? 

Due to its flexible, adaptive nature as a technology, there are very few problems web-based solutions (to take a break from the buzzword) can't resolve. In business, accessing data while working away from a company's internal network has become commonplace. Accessing client information, company financials, project management applications and more have become routine, but every business has unique challenges that aren't addressed by a web-based solution - yet. From remote employees needing to track job completion status with folks at HQ, to on-the-road salespeople checking inventory in real-time, web-based solutions can and will be created to solve issues that complicate business and stymie growth. Coming back to the external hard drive - is it obsolete? Sort of. Instead of having your own, you and other consumers are sharing servers owned by various companies to free up storage, have access to greater processing capabilities, and live without those servers in your basement.

So, what problems do you have at your organization? There's probably a way to use cloud technologies to get you the solution you need.  

Swell Development is a web development and hosting firm based in Grand Rapids, MI. We specialize in creating web-based applications for businesses and organizations in the manufacturing, healthcare, and information technology industries. You can learn more about us and get industry news and trends by following us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.