Yes. Cloud computing is the next big thing because it can reduce hardware and software costs for both individuals and corporations. Cloud computing is using virtualization and various other technologies to share computer hardware and software resources on the internet. For more information, see Cloud Computing (Wikipedia).
Although a ‘cloud computer’ appears to other computers on the internet as single computer or server, it usually consists of multiple servers running at multiple locations. Cloud computing might eventually expand data storage for supercomputers. For example, see San Diego Supercomputer Center Begins Cloud Computing Research.
Some people think that ‘cloud computing’ is an unnecessary term because it describes existing technologies. For example, see Why ‘Cloud Computing’ is for the Birds. However, despite corporations over-using the term ‘cloud computing’ in their sales hype, it is probably valid precisely because it can refer to one or more computer-sharing technologies, sometimes in new combinations. Moreover, in everyday English, we (especially young people) are more frequently using the term ‘cloud computing,’ and generally understanding its meaning.
Advantages of Cloud Computing
Cloud computing can be advantageous for both individuals and corporations.
Advantages for Individuals – For individuals, cloud computing can mean buying less-expensive personal computers (PCs and Macs). For example, if you buy an expensive computer that lets you run equally expensive software, it might soon be so obsolete that you need an even newer computer so that you can upgrade to newer software. To help break this cycle, you can buy a not-so-expensive computer, such as a netbook, and then access free online applications, such as Google Apps or Zoho Productivity Apps. These include:
- Email programs
- Word processors
- Presentation slide shows
Beyond using cloud computing to access online applications, you can set up an online personal virtual computer, also called a virtual desktop. After you set up a virtual computer, you can do almost everything that you can do with a physical personal computer. Here are two free virtual-computer websites:
CAUTION: Although you can access your online applications or virtual computer from any computer, you should NEVER do so through any computer in an internet cafe or computer kiosk. To avoid risking your identity and your money through using public computers, buy a laptop or netbook computer. For more information, see Are Internet Cafes Truly Safe?
Note: Cloud computing cannot yet fully replace all applications that you can run on a personal computer. For example, when you need to write a long document, such as a manual, you might find online word processors inadequate. You might need a more-powerful word processor, such as Microsoft Word or OpenOffice.org Writer. For more information, see Using OpenOffice.org to Write Manuals.
Advantages for Corporations – For corporations, cloud computing can mean buying fewer (or no) servers, and instead renting computer-processing and storage services from cloud-computing vendors. Through cloud computing, corporations can save money by paying for only those services that they actually use. Additionally, they can swiftly acquire new software applications as necessary. Even during this recession (October, 2009), providing cloud-computing services to corporations is a growth industry.
Disadvantages of Cloud Computing
Cloud computing has two major disadvantages: Potential reliability problems, and rapidly changing technologies.
Potential Reliability Problems – Hardware can fail at any time. Therefore, both individuals and corporations need to make sure that their online data is both secure and non-volatile.
Individuals should download copies of their most-important documents. You can download to your computer and/or its external media.
Corporations need to choose cloud-computing vendors carefully. Saving money by selecting the lowest bidder might be catastrophic. Good cloud-computing vendors provide reliable backups. Ideally, each cloud-computing server is actually two linked servers running in parallel. When either server fails, the other takes over and runs alone until IT personnel repair the failed server.
Rapidly Changing Technologies – While cloud-computing technologies are still evolving through their early-development stages, they must make changes. Therefore, both individuals and corporations need to expect those changes.
As an individual, you need to pay attention to all website notices and emails from your online-application vendor(s). Changing technologies might affect how you use your online applications and/or store your files.
Changing technologies can affect how rapidly a corporation can, or should, transfer its in-house computing systems to cloud computing. For example, after your IT team finishes moving one department to ‘the cloud,’ they might need to learn some new technologies before working with the next department.