What does weather have to do with computers? Well, not much, actually. But cloud computing is a term that has gained in the buzz department recently, although it has actually been around for several years.
“Cloud computing” is really just a metaphor for doing your work entirely online. In computer network diagrams, the Internet is typically portrayed as a cloud shape. The concept integrates Web 2.0, Software as a Service (SaaS) and other common technologies that help to meet user needs in the online environment. Typically, this means that users don’t have to be responsible for maintaining the architecture to support their needs; large data centers often house the applications and data, and users merely connect using their PC and the Internet. One of the most famous examples is Google Apps, which provides free business applications that are entirely online (Such as Google Docs, a competitor to Microsoft Word).
Besides not having to pay for the infrastructure, electricity, etc., many cloud computing applications allow end users to only pay for what they actually use (e.g., Amazon Web Services), much like a traditional utility. Some do use a subscription model (e.g., NetFlix’s download-on-demand service).
What does this mean to me, Laura?
- As more applications move online or have online competitors, expect that your patrons will want to access them. This will possibly mean purchasing more powerful computers and upgrading web browsers and/or their plugins more frequently to keep up with application requirements.
- Cloud computing and mobile devices will continue to bond. Powerful smartphones like the iPhone or the Google Android can use the cloud for extended storage as well as applications. This area will continue to grow as phones continue to become even more powerful.
- There are some inherent risks in cloud computing; reputable providers mitigate these and make sure that your data is sufficiently backed up.