The Cloud. You may have heard of it and no, I dont mean those fluffy things in the sky.
But what is it? How does it work? And what does it mean for you and your family?
You may be surprised to realize that you and your family likely use the cloud almost every day. Have you uploaded a photo to Instagram? Well, its now in the cloud. How about backing up your iPhone to the iCloud? Thats a little obvious, but yes, youve backed up your photos, contacts, and notes to a cloud.
The cloud is the latest way of storing information and using services on the internet, but its origins go back to the 1950s. At that time computers were expensive, and users needed to find a way to share the limited and valuable processing time. This idea of sharing is the foundation of cloud computing.
North Korea threatens the world with cyberwarfare, not nukes
Rather than have each individual user have her own terminal with its own software, the software or information is centrally located. She logs into her account, accessing the information in the office, on the road, or at her local caf.
Its important to realize the cloud is not a physical thing per se. You cant wrap your arms around it. Come to think of it, you cant do that to a real cloud either!
MIKE ROGERS EXPLAINS THE CLOUD ON THE LATEST EPSIDODE OF OUR WEBSHOW WORLD WAR E. WATCH ABOVE.
The cloud exists in massive server farms. You probably have driven past them and not realized it. They are massive warehouses filled with networks of servers running software, applications, and storing information. They are pretty cool to look at, with miles and miles of bundled cables, flashing LEDs, and whirring fans to keep the temperature down.
Amazon Web Services, or AWS, is one of the largest providers of cloud services. Social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram host their platforms on AWS servers. Even the CIA and NSA use AWS to host some of its I.T. infrastructure.
So why do companies and organizations go to the cloud? Two primary reasons.
First, it saves a ton of money. Rather than buying computers and software licenses for every individual employee, you can pay a subscription fee. One example is Adobes creative tools like Photoshop. When that employee leaves, you just cancel her subscription. The same is true if you expand. Add another employee, add another subscription. Its just that easy.
It also saves companies by centralizing services such as cybersecurity, something weve talked a lot about here at World War E. Before, you needed to have an on-site I.T. expert who was the one-stop-shop for all things computer. She would respond if your computer froze or your email turned off, but she would also patrol the digital walls to make sure hackers didnt breach the perimeter.
The problem here is that she needed to do that for all the computers, all the devices, and the entire I.T. infrastructure. Now scale that up to a multi-national company with offices on six continents. It gets complicated, and fast.
With the cloud, services such as cybersecurity and I.T. management are pushed up the chain to a central location where it is easier and cheaper to manage.
Second, with the cloud you can access your information from anywhere in the world. Want to work from home on your couch? You can do that with the cloud. Need to show the family photos to grandma in Michigan? Send her a link to Flickr. You dont have to send the information, photos, or videos over the internet anymore.
How secure is the cloud? Well– as with any technology there are issues. Centralizing your personal information and phone back-ups makes some people wary. If these cloud services are breached, you could lose a lot more than just some photos and funny pet videos. Thankfully companies like Amazon and Google are fully aware of this and are placing a high premium on security and encryption.
The cloud is an exciting technology and one that is changing the way we live and work. As with anything, we need to adopt basic cyber hygiene practices when using the cloud. Frequently change your password and use solid passwords. And no, password is not a good password. Have backups on your computer or external hard-drive in addition to the cloud. Nothing is foolproof. But you can help yourself by being smart online.
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