The computer industry is one that confuses most people, even those within it. I started in the silly business in 1973, since then I have seen many changes. The changes though are generally of a cyclic nature. I refer to it as the ‘what is old is new again phenomena’. Oh for sure the technology today far surpasses the technology of the 1970’s, but I am talking more about the philosophy.

The buzzword today is “Cloud Computing”. But what is it? More importantly, why do I care, and why should you care?

I am sure that most people will say – ‘The PC that I bought at my local Megamart made no mention of the cloud, it must be an add on service’.

Not so!

Most people are already users of the cloud. Do you have a Yahoo, Gmail, or MSN email address? If you do you are a cloud user. Your data is not on your local computer, it is stored potentially 1000’s of miles away.

The same goes for the social media sites, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and the other eight gazzillion places operate in the same way. Your comments, pictures, ideas, are not living on that box on floor beside your monitor, they are on a computer far, far away.

I am a fan of the cloud, every couple of months I get fed up with some quirk that one of my computers has developed, I just reload the Operating System. It takes only a few minutes, so obviously I am not using a Microsoft product!

I do not lose anything, I do not keep data that I care about at a local level. The Cloud seemed scary when I first heard about it. Who would trust their information to a place that was hard to define? A place that you could not reach out and touch?

But, think about it for a moment. In a way your local hard drive is the same. Sure, you can take a screwdriver and unhook it. You can hold it in your hands, but can you really touch the data? Can you hold that picture of your grand child in your hands? The answer is a resounding NO!

You can hold the physical device, but so what? What happens if that physical device gets damaged? The sensible answer would be, I would reload my data from my back up system. It sounds great, but, how many of you actually back up your data?

The cloud makes good sense. Your data is backed up, it is safe. Sure, if you lose your internet connection it will be inaccessible until service is restored. I class that as a minor irritant that I can live with, and when it happens I can always continue to create at the local level.

The cloud as a data repository makes great sense to me.

It unfetters me from my computer, It does not matter where in the world I am, I can access the information.

Can the cloud do more? Yes it can. In part two we will look at another cloud use, one that might surprise you.

Simon Barrett

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