Cloud Computing


More than Just Storage

Have you ever used the cloud storage service “Dropbox”? Dropbox allows you to upload all your files to the Internet and never lose them. Multiple copies of your files are saved in multiple data centers to ensure that. This kind of service is a subset of a larger new technology known as Cloud Computing.

Before Cloud Computing, when a company wanted to start a service, say a website, it would start with what is known as a server. A server is a group of computers that are designed to serve you, the website visitor. The company had to maintain all of those computers, make sure they do not breakdown or heat up (maintenance). It had to keep data centers to store all the data required by the website and stored by its users, and make copies of this data so as not to lose it if part of the data center fails (replication).

If, one day, the number of users was too high for the capacity of the server, it would slow down. If the number of users was generally too low, then the server is a bad investment. Accommodating for lower and higher demand was difficult because you had to scale the server, which means either letting go of or buying more equipment, or updating them altogether (scaling). Cloud Computing brought solutions to these challenges.

Do Not Try This at Home

With Cloud Computing, the company does not have to take all these steps. Instead, it starts the service “in the cloud”. They go to a cloud hosting service (such as Google App Engine, Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services) which handles these services for them, providing scaling, replication and maintenance. These companies have millions of equipment at their disposal. If today the website got only a few visitors, the cloud hosting company will reserve only a handful of servers for you. If all of a sudden you got many visitors, new servers will be automatically reserved for you on the spot, without the new users even noticing.

Web 2.0

Cloud Computing is changing the way the Internet works. Powerful new “Web 2.0” applications such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Dropbox, which were not possible before, are now literally at the palm of your hand. New companies do not have to maintain all of the IT hassle needed to start a new service, which has led to many startups springing everywhere.

The Internet has ceased to become a luxury and is used to solve many problems. Some researchers are even using Cloud Computing to process large numbers of scientific observations in a very short time by reserving multiple servers at the same time from cloud hosting services. A recent cloud service, OnLive provides online gaming where you do not have to download or install the game. The game runs on the cloud and streams to your computer! Cloud Computing is changing the world in ways you could never imagine.


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