Clouding your judgement
Are we moving closer to the cloud, and if so, why, and is it a good thing?
Clouding your judgement
From data proclaiming 500 million consumers have moved there over the past 12 months (and that the number could be closer to 1.3 billion by 2017), to the launch of the Samsung Chromebook which forsakes a recognizable operating system in favor of a web browser and online apps, this week has been the week of the cloud.
But what is it and why does it seem to be constantly in the news at the moment? For technophiles, the cloud has been the buzzword of the year, but while the term has already entered common lexicon, a survey that came out as recently as August discovered that although 97 percent of Americans use the cloud every day, when asked "what is the cloud?" the majority of respondents said that it was an actual cloud while 29 percent thought it was computing related to weather.
Defining the cloud
Put simply, the cloud is storage or computing power that is remotely accessed via an internet connection. That computing power can be your webmail account, an online spreadsheet or an online store, while for companies it can mean the complex computing systems needed to run their business.
The reason it's creating a buzz is because we've reached a point in terms of connectivity -- of how we use computers and of what we perceive as computing -- where, if we continue in this fashion, the cloud is going to be the only way of supporting our behavior.
Pay as you go
Computing is becoming a utility, like gas or electricity, and soon it will make more economic and environmental sense to pay for it in the same way -- only what we need and only when we need it. "Much like the electricity grid, cloud computing makes technology services available on demand so a customer doesn't need to think about controlling them or maintaining them. Customers access the services when they need them, switching them on and off much like a light bulb, and pay for only what they use," explains Amazon Web Services' Matt Lambert.
It's what has been enticing businesses to switch from hardware on site to the cloud, and now, through devices like the Samsung Chromebook and to a lesser extent the Amazon Kindle Fire and Apple's iPhones and iPads, the same proposal is starting to chime with consumers. Why buy music when you can stream it? Why buy lots of physical storage when you can pay to use exactly the amount of storage you need whenever you need it and be able to access it when you want? And now, with the advent of the Chromebook, why pay for lots of software, licenses and upgrades when you can access the applications online for free or for a tiny fee when you need them and be sure they're always up to date, virus-free and not cluttering up and slowing down your computer?
Moving to the cloud would also make our mobile and desktop devices cheaper as they'd no longer need to process heavy data, graphics or store hundreds of files, they would simply need to access a much bigger, more powerful computer that does it instead.
It could make devices like smartphones, tablets and notebooks cheap enough that everyone in the world could finally afford to access the web. And devices like the Samsung Chromebook could be the first step on this journey.
Visitors look at the latest 3D printing technology during "Inside 3D Printing" conference and exhibition in New York. Duration: 00:48.
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