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What is Cloud Computing?

Updated on September 15, 2014
Photo courtesy of
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Cloud Computing - a simple explanation

If you've already looked elsewhere for a simple definition of "Cloud Computing" , you might have been surprised at some of the jargon and less-than-clear explanations of this short term.

It can refer to using a program stored on another computer and accessed remotely over a network - such as the internet. It can also refer to using a service such as the processing power of another computer or computers, or storage etc. and again accessed remotely.

Put simply, from a users point of view, cloud computing typically means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer's hard drive.

Who uses "The Cloud"?

Many people might think of this as being aimed only at businesses, but it can be useful for home users too. Imagine having access to all your e-mails, documents photographs etc. wherever you happen to be!

To some extent, this is now commonplace already. Do you have your photographs on Facebook? Videos on You Tube? If so, you already have the idea of Cloud Computing.

Of course, though, many services are aimed at large organisations.

In "The Cloud" you can access the computing power of some of the most powerful computers available, and just pay for the time you use them, instead of investing large amounts of money on computers which might lose much of their value in a matter of months.You can store large amounts of data, use databases, word processors etc. as if you had them on your own computer, and access them from anywhere where you have a connection to the network.

A couple of Cloud service providers you may already have heard of are Google and Amazon. Google offers "Google Apps" and Amazon has "Amazon Web Services"

Potential dangers

While the benefits of a company managing your IT may be obvious, do think about the potential dangers if you're thinking of using such a service. Whether you're an individual or a large organization, there are risks. Just imagine if you lost your internet connection for a few days, possibly through no fault of your own. If that meant no access to your holiday photos for a little while, that might not be too much of a problem. If it meant you couldn't access critical data, maybe it's time to think of putting back-up systems (on paper!) in place.

There are many other potential dangers, ranging from potentially opening yet more doors to hackers, to legal implications. Do research carefully if you're thinking of taking up such a service.


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