De'mist'ifying the Cloud

Ryan Cardwell - Senior Web Developer
I know that the Information Technology (IT) field is infamous for a strange love of acronyms and abstract terms most of which are confusing and unknown even to some of us using them.  Admittedly, they help to raise the shroud of mystery and disguise over what it is that computer scientists actually do; we feel so much cooler in our cloak-and-dagger terminology.  However clandestine we may like to keep such knowledge, the present reality is that lines are blurring between technology and pop culture with the prevalence of computers, whether they be large desktops, handheld smartphones, techno glasses or our normal, everyday refrigerators (or what we thought was normal until it started ordering groceries for us).  One of the concepts that is a buzzword today is The Cloud.  We hear it all the time in business meetings and in casual conversations. But ask any one person what is the Cloud, any number of unique answers will be given.  Let’s use the analogy of a cloud to explain what it is and how it can be useful.

Sprawling Cloud Banks

The Cloud is a vast, interconnected network of servers and large storage devices.  The current worldwide data usage is not measured in terabytes or pedabytes, but in exabytes.  If you need some context for what those words mean, look here.  That’s a lot of data, right?  It is projected that in 2020, the world Cloud will be consuming  20,000 exabytes.

Thunderclouds on the Horizon

Servers that power the Cloud can and do exist in different geographies, sometimes with vast distances between them.  If you live in Florida, your Instagram photo may be stored in a Texas data center. Working in New York, your Google Drive document may be in the Appalachians. The Cloud makes all of your data seem as if it is at your fingertips.

It’s Foggy Out There

We all have experienced foggy mornings when we can barely see down the road as we’re driving to work.  Foggy conditions bring low visibility, and this idea transfers in the Cloud.  None of us know the details of the inner workings of the Cloud infrastructure.  We have no idea where our data is actually stored when we upload it to the Cloud.  Having low visibility in the Cloud gives a sense of ‘fire and forget’.  There is no need to worry how it gets done.  The benefit of this is that companies or individuals do not need to have an intimate knowledge of the Cloud’s inner-workings in order to receive immediate value.

Getting Lost in the Clouds

When considering the history of technology, the Cloud is really nothing new.  The primary concepts behind the Cloud follow closely to the mainframe, popular in the late 1970s through the 1990s.  Dumb terminals, with no storage or computational capacity within themselves operated off of the mainframe, where all of the files and processing actually lived.  As of now, the momentum of the Cloud is heading in the direction of a large computing and storage engine, not too dissimilar to a mainframe, though unconstrained by organizational or geographical boundaries.  It is potentially foolish to try to predict the future, especially as far as technology is concerned, but it does seem as though the trend is pointing to smaller, thinner clients and a large, central warehouse of information and processing.
You and your business can utilize the Cloud now to abstract away much of the technical knowledge that once was required from the IT field.  The services offered via the Cloud can reduce costs and provide more immediate value without obscene upfront costs.  But be wary, the information you store in the cloud may not be your own, as recent news warns us.  It is important to do homework and determine the level of security available to protect information stored in the Cloud.
North Star Marketing utilizes the cloud in various ways, including: email and office software services, web server backups, project management, and customer service.  The Cloud can be an effective tool in your own business arsenal.

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