What is the cloud? Where is the cloud? Are we in the cloud right now? These are all questions you’ve probably heard or even asked yourself. The term “cloud computing” is everywhere.
In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the internet instead of your computer’s hard drive. PCMag Encyclopedia defines it succinctly as “hardware and software services from a provider on the internet.” Another way to define cloud computing is the delivery of on-demand computing services — from applications to storage and processing power — typically over the internet.
What does cloud computing mean for you?
If you have a Google account (a Gmail email address), you have access to Google Drive. If you have a Microsoft account (an Outlook email address), you have access to One Drive. Both Google Drive and OneDrive are file storage service that allows users to share and synchronize their files with other devices. What this means to you is you can save a file like your grandma’s apple pie recipe to your One Drive or Google Drive account and then have it available on your tablet when cooking in the kitchen or shared with your brothers and sisters so that they too can use the recipe in their kitchens. Save the file in the cloud from work and then access it on a different device from home. Both Google and Microsoft also offer web-based programs for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and more.
Do you use a smart speaker like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant? Those use cloud computing to give you answers to your questions, remember how to control your lights and devices, and to give you reminders for appointments etc. When you ask Alexa to remember to set an alarm for 8:00 am to wake you up, the device does not save that information on the device. Rather it saves it to a server on the internet that is running a program that sends a signal to your device at 8:00 am and makes the alarm sound you requested to wake you up. See our blog post about Smart Speakers.
Do you have a video camera doorbell? Video doorbells work by capturing video, either during the day or at night via infrared LED sensors or a spotlight, and audio through a speaker and microphone. The footage is remotely through a cloud server. Also, when you respond through the video doorbell using your smart phone while at work, you are using the cloud computing resources of the doorbell manufacturer to tell the package delivery person to put the package in the mailbox. In fact, many Smart Home devices including door locks, appliances, and even light bulbs use some form of cloud computing. Our blog on Smart Homes gives you more information.
Have you ever streamed a video or movie? That is a form of cloud computing. Video streaming refers to the continual transmission of audio and video files from a server (a computer on the internet) to a client (you, the end user). In video streams, content is sent over the internet and is displayed by the viewer in real time. The media is sent in a continuous stream of data and is played as it arrives. The user needs a player, which is a special program that displays the video and audio data to your computer, TV, tablet etc. Examples of media players include Windows Media Player 12 for Windows 10 or QuickTime Player for MacOS. Since you are not downloading and saving the video to your computer and storing the video on your hard drive you are cloud computing. Netflix is an example of cloud computing.
Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Snap Chat are all examples of cloud computer. The content you see in your news feed is not stored on your computer, you don’t download and store every picture, comment etc. from social media sites. For example, when you type a post on Facebook, “just got home from the doctor.” Your words are not being kept on your device but rather on the internet on Facebook’s computers where all your friends can see your post in their news feed or on your profile.
I hope that this has given you a little glimpse at cloud computing and how you might be using it every day.