No doubt you’ve been hearing a lot of talk about “the cloud”. It’s something that many folks have heard not only in their IT organizations where they work, but also in consumer commercials and ads. For end-users (you and me) the cloud represents this magical place where we can store and access files, photos, etc. no matter where we are, or what device we are using. For IT organizations it means a lot more than that – but we’ll let those guys sort out all the geek speak.
So you might be thinking to yourself, “Wow! I could access my photos and documents anywhere, anytime from any device? Where do I sign up?”
No need to sign up – you’re already there.
Every day millions of people access their email through services such as Hotmal, Gmail or Yahoo Mail. Thousands of photos are uploaded every hour to photo sharing sites such as Flickr, Facebook and others. We tweet about what we are eating for lunch; we use services such as DropBox to store our files; and we upload our videos to Youtube.
And all the while, unknown to many, we are on “the cloud”.
You can upload a picture to Flickr, leave your laptop at home, get on a plane and fly halfway around the world, go into a coffee shop in Belgium and login to Flickr and your photos are there waiting for you. Just like magic – except it isn’t, it’s cloud technology at work. Your data (the photos) is being stored on Flickr servers that are located around the world. You don’ t have to worry about how much space you are taking up, keeping the original backed up or carrying a USB stick around with you.
The same goes with your mail. No matter where you are you can fire up a browser, use a smartphone or tap on a tablet and access your Hotmail account. You don’t have to worry about how the mail gets there, just know that it does. This is a far cry from years ago when checking e-mail meant you had to launch a mail program such as Outlook; and if you decided to switch computers it was a chore to get everything set back up again – and even when you got it right your old email was gone, or rather stuck on the old machine.
In fact this webpage you are reading right now is hosted “in the cloud”. The data is kept on servers “out there” and I don’t have to worry about maintaining them, backing them up, etc. I can access my blog from anywhere, using any device. It’s just “there” and that’s the way it should be.
For end-users like ourselves the cloud represents the ultimate in freedom. It allows us to finally break the chains that bind us to one particular computer, a single laptop or a mobile phone. We can now switch devices instantly, access our data from anywhere and never have to worry about backing up our files in case something unfortunate were to happen (and let’s face it, how many of us actually backed up our data on a regular basis, if at all?)
So the next time you hear someone talk about the cloud pat yourself on the back – you’re already here.