If you’ve accessed the internet within the last 5 years, chances are you’ve run into the term “cloud,” used in the context of computers, networking, and other similarly innocuous terms. The “cloud” has become synonymous with the future, a sort of data point heaven above the physical plane where we as mere mortals may tap into the kind of logical beauty that programmer’s access on a daily basis. This is, obviously, not what it is, but for those too prideful to ask someone what this term means, it’s best if we start from the beginning.
Where the Data Goes
Data is a strange thing, transferred in a compiled manner to minimize space then reconnected at the point where the information is needed. It can be anything from credit card numbers to images, but regardless of the type of data the idea of the internet is simple: a web of wires and signals that connect different machines. Some of these machines are in homes, others in pockets serving as mobile phones, but many are in unexpected places called Data Centers.
Data centers are the collective name for an entire subgroup of building that likely you have seen but never entered. If you want to learn more, Wikipedia does it best as an encyclopedia based in many of these servers that can be edited by random people, so click here for the article on the basics of this building. In general, the cloud means in one of these data centers, though how it is transferred between your home and that likely unlabeled office building is a matter between you and the company offering you that service.
Implications of the System
If you are looking for a more nuanced yet complicated answer, chances are they can be found not online but in the terms of service between you and the company you’re talking to. You may not be talking physically, but anything using a cloud-based connection is constantly communicating with a server somewhere in the world that provides that thing you are doing. How exactly you are operating a system from a distance like that is complicated, but if you’re accustomed to the fast-paced world of computing the details are harmless.
A lot of the world runs via programs that then stream the result of what you’re doing to a server, who does the thing you’re looking at, whether a videogame or a spreadsheet, and then sends it back for feedback. The average computer is waiting for eons between key presses, so it really isn’t that farfetched, and if you’re looking at the servers price in your local area you may be surprised to find that the infrastructure makes it incredibly cheap. It isn’t hard to stream cloud-based software, though the sci-fi details of the exchange may be frightening.
Pros and Cons
For many people looking at this kind of technology, it can seem surreal. You are sending inputs to a server maybe hours away in physical space, which is then sending back results to you that you receive so fast you don’t even notice. But, as with all things these types of systems have strengths and weaknesses. For instance, though beaming signals in an encrypted manner seems like the safest method possible, and it is, it also has safety concerns relating to how fast it is. You may be able to write something spectacular quickly, but a thief can also steal from you or someone else with an equal level of speed.
Cloud services usually make up for this by requiring extra security on the part of the user. Google, for instance, has begun promoting the use of its own security software called Google Authenticator which creates a physical barrier between thieves and your info. If you’re still confused on how cloud software works at a base level though, click this link: https://www.vox.com/2015/4/30/11562024/too-embarrassed-to-ask-what-is-the-cloud-and-how-does-it-work to see an alternative explanation from Vox.
The use of servers for everyday activities means that data is conglomerated, though for most people the phones we carry do the same thing. Cloud servers, and their use in general, is for the most part a neat side effect of the highly connected world we crave. For many average people, albums of photos on Google Drive or an easy website connection on Cloudflare can make the difference between having a feature and not having it.
Though computer scientists continue to stretch the bounds of this technology, you can be sure you’ll be seeing some pushback as well. After all, physical computers are still leagues faster for certain tasks. That being said, for low level computer applications, you cannot beat the speed and ease-of-use of this newly discovered means of information transfer.
Author & Publisher | Emily Forbes
An Entrepreneur, Mother & A passionate tech writer in the technology industry!