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Cloud computing is not a new premise. In fact, the late Steve Jobs relied on a cloud server as far back as 1996 as a means of protecting some of Apple’s most coveted business plans. Today, cloud-based email is limited to 3-4% of all enterprise accounts, but is expected to jump to 50% within the next nine years.
Amazon is doing it, Google is doing it, Microsoft is doing it, Twitter is doing it. But what, exactly, is it? Essentially, cloud computing is the concept of separating your applications from your personal computer’s hardware for the purpose of added safety and accessibility. Businesses that subscribe to cloud hosting enjoy ease of access to software and data for their employees from anywhere with internet signal.
In addition, if the company’s own servers are hacked, valuable data remains safe and untouched on a remote cloud server. Another aspect of cloud computing that has businesses jumping on board is the elasticity it offers. For instance, if traffic on a website suddenly explodes, such as often happens on Twitter after a significant social event, the cloud is able to grow to maintain that traffic.
An article published on Sunday by The Guardian notes that in the U.K.; “A study in the first half of 2011, which polled IT and business decision-makers across the private and public sectors, found that almost half already use cloud services.” But cloud computing isn’t exclusive to business use, and the consumer market is seeing a distinct increase in interest.
Amazon.com recently began offering account holders 5GB of free storage space from it’s cloud drive, as well as paid plans that store from 20 to 1,000 GB of data. Apple’s iCloud, which was released last June, also offers a free 5GB to anyone who signs up, and promises to bring the personal computer even further into the cloud.
Another addition to the market this past June, Google’s Chromebook actually runs an entirely cloud-based operating system. In their advertisements, Google promises that even if you throw your device into a river, all of your data will be safe.
In addition, the OS protects itself from viruses with sandboxing, a process which isolates webpages so that malware is also isolated, and no other part of the device becomes infected. Just this month, Google opened it’s first retail location, called “The Chrome Zone”, in London — the corporation’s latest attempt to compete with Apple. Several more store locations are scheduled to open in the U.K. over the next year.
So, is cloud computing truly the way of the future? The newest technologies have certainly elicited many positive reviews. Others, however, remain skeptical that information stored on a cloud network is ever completely private, and that cloud networks send up an instant red flag to hackers as an easy target.
When Sony lost the information of 77 million playstation accounts earlier this year, the fears of loose security seemed to gain some credibility. Many industry leaders agree that there are definite flaws that come along with the advantages of cloud computing. In an interview with CNN, Thomas Parenty, managing director of Parenty Consulting warned that,
There are many motivations for why an individual or a company would want to engage in cloud computing. None of them have to do with enhanced security. You have no idea who is managing the computers with your information. You have no idea where they are.
You have no idea what protections may or may not be in place to make sure your information is not stolen or disclosed or that it does not accidentally disappear.
In the end, the responsibility falls upon the individual to weigh the pros and cons of cloud computing. Is security of the highest importance, or does speed and efficiency matter more? Lynn Mucker takes a realisitc stance on the subject in an article for MSN Money: “The cloud is relatively new, and certainly not perfect.
But it is every bit as safe as giving out your credit card number when you make a purchase over the phone or online, and that’s a risk millions take every day.”