The cloud has changed the way the Internet works. No we don’t mean those puffy cumulus clouds or stratus clouds that stretch as far as the eye can see, no we mean Cloud computing. This used to be the domain of the uber geek but in recent years it has been made available to the average user and now anyone can put files in an accessible central location and access them from anywhere that is connected to the Internet.

A new Information Age

Since we live in the Information Age the access to information is critical. Businesses need access to their information offsite and people want to share pictures or movies with others. Before a server could be used but that was an expensive proposition and required someone who knew what they were doing to run it and maintain it. Network drives would need to be mapped and access granted, a complicated process for someone who did not know what they were doing. The Cloud is instead accessed usually through a web interface making it easy to access, navigate and manage.

The Cloud is in actuality just another term for the Internet and its availability to John Q. Public was seized upon. There was no more needing to buy dedicated servers. Their information could be uploaded to a central location and accessed via the Internet for others to use or to access at a different location. The IT Department can now do something else besides applying an endless amount of patches or adding new racks. This mode of access is also typically faster and fewer resources are used to access the data. Cloud computing also creates backups automatically so should a disaster happen data recovery is easier.

Different types of clouds

There are typically three types of cloud services. The first is Infrastructure-as-a-service (Iaas) in which you rent the space needed and pay as you go for what you need. The second is Platform-as-a-service (Paas) which is more for businesses and creates an on-demand environment to be used to develop, test, deliver and manage software and apps. The last is Software-as-a-service (Saas) and this provides access through a web portal to the Cloud and is the one most users are familiar with.

The Cloud is actually not new

Cloud computing is not even new. It has been used since 2000 and was first envisioned (and named) in 1996. The term cloud is actually a metaphor since a cloud-like shape was used to denote a network on telephony schematics. Originally most Cloud services were done via a VPN which offered a better way to balance network traffic but as more people used the Internet a more efficient way was needed. Amazon was the first to offer a Cloud service to the public in 2006 with its Elastic Compute Cloud. Google released its own in 2008 as a beta test and in 2013 for real. Since then nearly every tech giant has gotten into the game and it has proven to be lucrative. Information is the name of the game and controlling and hosting that information is a lucrative job.

Concerns about Cloud computing

The largest concern with the Cloud is privacy. With the ability to access data from anywhere in the world than means that conceivably anyone with an Internet connection can access it. This has led to some Cloud services offering encryption services but in the end the user needs to be careful with their own information. The other sticky point is ownership of the information. Since the user is using a Cloud service to store the information and never actually has it in their possession, is it theirs and could a Cloud provider profit from that information? As of now there has been no answer to this and there has not been any legal challenges brought forth to settle the issue.

That has not stopped Cloud computing from becoming one of the best sources of revenue on the Internet today, with Saas revenues alone topping out at an estimated $33 billion in 2016. The tech giants are all working to outdo each other. In 2011 Microsoft committed 90% of its $9.6 billion R&D budget to cloud computing. Google has spent over $30 billion in an effort to play catch up to Microsoft and Amazon. Cloud computing is becoming even more important as most businesses are moving apps and software offsite and freeing up in-house resources.

The most popular services of 2017 is Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. The cloud has become the new normal of the Internet it seems and everyone is waiting for the next step. The competition is fierce and only getting hotter so that can only mean good things for the consumer.

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