A day does not go by that we don’t hear about “computing in the cloud,” the buzzword that describes using applications and storing data on the Internet rather than on a hard drive or local server. “The Cloud” is really nothing more than another term for Internet (Griffith, 2013). Although considered by many to have been originated in the worlds of Google and Oracle, the first use of the term can be traced to 1996 and an internal memo at Compaq, where the prospect was discussed as part of future strategic strategy (Regalado, 2011).
Soloway (Laureate Education (Producer), 2014a) notes that a technology has emerged when, among other things, it becomes both affordable and essential to the user. As a user who has been purchasing home computers every few years since 1992, I’ve experienced my share of lost data due to hard drive crashes or damaged floppy disks. Keeping my work secure in some remote location has become essential to me. The ability to back up data to a server via the Internet has been around since at least 2005, when Carbonite began offering automated hard drive backup (Carbonite, 2014a). I’ve personally been a customer almost since the beginning; the approximately $60 annual price tag has paid for itself time and again as I either changed computers or sent them in for repairs.
Beyond simple document storage, Microsoft and Adobe have joined Google Docs in becoming among the largest applications that can be used entirely online, without installing software on a computer hard drive. This allows for users to access their work wherever they happen to be, as long as they have Internet access. Google Docs (also known as Google Apps) is giving the ubiquitous MS Office a serious challenge in allowing multiple users to collaborate on documents and projects in the cloud, and some users have moved to the Google process permanently (Stevens, 2013).
A major challenge faced by proponents of cloud computing is convincing non-adopters of the safety of their data. Just as early users feared storing data on hard drives, believing floppies to be more secure, today’s computing population is concerned that hackers will have access to their data, or that some other catastrophe will cause the loss of all the work they hold dear. Deep and redundant encryption makes this less likely than, say, having one’s hard drive crash with irrevocable loss of data (Carbonite, 2014b).
If there is a serious pitfall to cloud computing, it is the necessity to have an Internet connection to access data and use cloud-based applications. This can mean lost time if, for example, there is an extended power outage, or when traveling to places where Internet service is limited. However, 4G and satellite technology make virtual connection possible nearly anywhere on the planet, and solar power sources for tech devices are becoming more robust and affordable. The computer industry is addressing the need for long battery life and strong Internet connections; devices such as the Chromebook by Google and the MacBook Air by Apple are two examples of computers that have eschewed the large hard drive for smaller solid-state (flash) drives with built-in 4G capabilities for use wherever a cell phone can find service.
I believe that cloud computing will eventually come to replace most hard drive-based storage and applications. The technology is expanding and improving, and developers are providing more web-based applications, allowing users to work “virtually” anywhere without worries about losing thumb drives or storing shelves of software packaging. If I were a professional prognosticator, I’d put money on the cloud eventually replacing PC-based storage entirely within the coming generation.
Carbonite. (2014a). About Us. Retrieved from Carbonite: http://www.carbonite.com/about
Carbonite. (2014b). Cloud backup 101. Retrieved from Carbonite: http://www.carbonite.com/online-backup
Griffith, E. (2013, March 13). What is cloud computing? Retrieved from PC Mag: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2372163,00.asp
Laureate Education (Producer) (2014a). Elliot Soloway: Emerging vs. emerged technologies . [Audio file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Mobile World. (2014). People working in the cloud. Retrieved from http://www.mobileworldmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/cloud-computing.jpg
Regalado, A. (2011, October 31). Who coined “cloud computing?”. Retrieved from MIT Technology Review: http://www.technologyreview.com/news/425970/who-coined-cloud-computing/
Stevens, A. (2013, March 15). Office in the cloud: Google Apps vs. Office 365. Retrieved from ZD Net: http://www.zdnet.com/office-in-the-cloud-google-apps-vs-office-365-7000012559/
Technom. (2014). Cloud computing graphic. Retrieved from http://technom.co/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/cloudcomputing.png