What Is The Cloud?
This is the first in my new blog series called Tech Talk One Oh One. I am going to be breaking "tech talk" down into everyday language so that anyone can understand the techie topics that usually are confusing for you non-geeks out there. Hope you enjoy!
Here at Bit-Wizards, we recently hosted a "Business After Hours" event, where local business leaders in the community were able to come and visit us and see what we do. Each department within Bit-Wizards was able to showcase some of the cool stuff we've been doing. I personally work in BWIT, which is the infrastructure arm of Bit-Wizards. Not only does our department provide IT support for all our software engineers and creative geniuses within the company, but we also provide IT support for external companies as managed service providers (MSP). One of the things we specialize in at BWIT is Office 365 and cloud computing. As our guests wandered through our department, one question came up a lot; “Okay… but what is ‘the cloud?’"
Cloud computing is such a part of my everyday life, it's easy for me to forget that not everybody understands what it is, or what it means, or maybe why we even call it "the cloud”. So I'm going to simplify it for you, show you some examples of cloud computing, and even tell you how you can use the cloud to your advantage.
First, let me clear one thing up. “The cloud” just means “the internet.” Because we use the Internet, so much it’s easy to overlook the fact that no one single thing exists called "the Internet." The Internet is really just a whole lot of computers connected to each other by long distance networks. Over the years, some very smart people have developed some very smart technologies that take advantage of all these interconnected computers. Things like "email" and "the World Wide Web", and even "virtual private networks" are all technologies built in the early days of the Internet.
As our Internet connections have gone from dial-up to high-speed, and we’ve gone from having to log in to being constantly connected, we are now able to shift the things we do on our computers away from our local devices and on to the Internet. Instead of storing all my documents on my computer, I can store them on “the cloud” and never have to worry about a spilled cup of coffee on my laptop destroying years of work. I no longer have to worry about taking too many pictures of my kids’ school events and running out of room on my computer, because I can just upload them to the cloud. My music collection doesn’t have to fill bookcases full of CDs in my house because I can just access all my music, whenever I want, on whatever device I want, directly from the cloud. In other words, it’s all online.
What's in a name?
So, why do we call it “the cloud?” I think, for one, it’s less confusing for people than calling it “the Internet,” since the Internet is so many things. But I think the name originally comes from IT geeks drawing diagrams on white boards. If we were to quickly sketch out a diagram of a network, it would be easy to draw laptops and desktops and wireless routers, etc., but when we try to add the internet as a component to our diagram we have no way of representing it. So we often just draw a nebulous cloud. Hence; cloud = Internet.
In my next article, I’ll get into some pro’s and con’s of cloud computing. I’ll give you some great examples of what it looks like in real life, and even give you some pointers on how you can get started.