What is…Cloud Computing?

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So there has been a buzz for quite some time about the green thing called “Cloud Computing” yet all of the literature is pretty cloudy (excuse the bad pun) for the average non-techie geek. Here is a basic and brief overview of this mysterious cloud computing (please note that its simplification may leave out some things that are beloved and important to techies, but this is for us non-techie types just trying to “get it” as best we can).

So typically your computer has a home base (server) that store your information and keeps you up and running. Sometimes you need a lot of energy and memory (kind of) to run your website and sometimes, you don’t. So what is up with all of this wasted time where the full capacity of your home base isn’t being used?

This is where cloud computing steps in to help out. It is kind of like sharing all of that extra energy. There are these common places for the servers to all sit and play nicely with one another. Then you and your website neighbors all store and put your information into these shared areas. So when you don’t need extra energy, your neighbor might, and vice versa. This helps use the potential of these home bases more efficiently.

Think of a shared basketball. Sometimes you and the neighbors all play together at the Recreation Center, and sometimes you just go in to shoot some hoops. But either way, having a shared basketball instead of one for every person helps get the best use out of that one basketball.

So who uses this kind of stuff? Well major cloud computing “providers” like your phone-provider are: Salesforce, Google, and Amazon among others. Microsoft, HP, Dell, IBM, and other large computing companies are very actively involved with cloud computing.

So what’s with all of this chit chat about it being “green”? Well as you can imagine, this can make the process a lot more efficient. There has been a lot of concern over companies going “paperless” which would in turn result in more electronic waste (a very toxic alternative to the highly recyclable paper) through the need of more servers. When we have paper waste, we can see it, we can feel in infringe on our space, and we feel the urge to clean it up or get rid of it. Since the same information can also be stored electronically, we often forget about it and electronic file build-up requires a great deal of energy and electronics to keep it stored and accessible. This is an ongoing debate, so keeping your inbox cleaned up and your computer free from unnecessary files. That said the emissions cut by investing in cloud computing as opposed to older versions on dedicated servers can reduce emissions and energy usage quite a bit.

Learn more about emissions cutting through cloud computing from this study.

Photo Credit.

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Comments

  1. Cloud computing has actually been around a lot longer than most people realize. It’s just recently been giving this new name, and somewhat a new “face”.

  2. I had not thought of cloud computing as an environmentally friendly alternative. It seems that to save resources on one end, things are stored elsewhere which ultimately results in the need to transfer that data. Isn’t extra energy required to download that data? I always thought cloud computing was more about the convenience of being able to access all your files or programs from anywhere.

    • @Aluminum, that was kind of my understanding as well and for also just combining and sharing everything.

      -Jean

  3. The back end of the cloud computing architecture is the cloud itself, comprising various computers, servers and data storage devices.

  4. Cloud computing has its place for sure. I think research groups can find it very useful in particular. But the above mentioned security risks are quite valid too. Your data is being stored on some server unknown to you, after all. But gradually, it should gain people’s confidence as it catches on more.

  5. From what I’ve read and seen cloud computing is still at its infancy, and I’ve seen some pretty cool predictions of what cloud computing will look like and bring in the future, can’t wait for that!

    -Jean

  6. The future is certainly in the cloud. As internet speeds grow, it is quite imaginable that certain part of the desktop computing environment also moves to the cloud.

    Another thing working for cloud computing is economics of scale. Look at Amazon. If your service starts to gain sufficient momentum, you can afford to offer better and better services that your competition can not match. It has come to a point where Amazon can now afford to offer an EC2 micro-instance for free for a while year.

    The future for cloud computing certainly looks promising.

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