So where is this “cloud” everyone is talking about and how does it affect our day-to-day lives? Simply put: the cloud refers to the Internet storing data for us and allowing us to run applications remotely.

In the past our computers were autonomous, stored their data locally, and ran all their programs from the local hard drive. Then, local area networks (LANs) developed where these tasks could be shared between multiple computers. Cloud computing is an extension of this where we can now tap into the almost limitless resources of the Internet.

Before, when we were surfing the Web, we were simply downloading small files from a web server. Sometimes we would download a file from an FTP server but in either case it was our download speed that was important. This is why asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) worked so well with download speeds much faster than upload speeds.

Now, with cloud computing, upload speed has become much more important as we are sending large files to a cloud server, or sending commands to a remote cloud application.

Cloud computing is becoming more and more ubiquitous as online storage is bundled with new phones and software packages. Click To Tweet

Cloud computing affects businesses and individuals differently. Running demanding applications from the cloud means that a less powerful and costly computer is needed. Many businesses have found that software-as-a-service (SaaS) will save them money on hardware as well as software licenses.

Also, when companies develop their own proprietary applications they can use platform-as-a-service (PaaS) to share the program with the rest of the company in various locations.

Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is where large companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Google rent out portions of their networks. This has helped smaller players expand their infrastructure.

For the individual, cloud computing is becoming more and more ubiquitous as online storage is bundled with new phones and software packages. When was the last time your computer crashed and you lost files and programs? Many of us use our cloud storage for offsite backups. In fact, Apple defaults to this for their iPhones and iPads. Also, web apps have the advantage that they are always updated and stable.

Microsoft Office 365 comes with online storage called OneDrive and also allows access to a set of applications called Office Online. These are versions of the most popular Office programs: Word, Excel and PowerPoint that can be run from a web browser.

Adobe Creative Cloud is another example and for a monthly fee the end user has access to the full suite of creative products. Google on the other hand provides its Drive service for free, which provides data storage that can be accessed with its online web apps: Docs, Sheets and Slides. As with most cloud storage services, the initial storage amount is free but additional space will cost you money.

Drawbacks to cloud services

Once your data is in the cloud it’s not as secure as it would be on your local drive. You are depending on the host to always allow you access to your files but prevent unwanted hackers from getting at them. Some service providers have had service outages and are a constant target for malicious activity.

On top of that, once your files are in the cloud who owns them and how long will they be stored for? Those agreements you tick have been known to change over time.

Also, you are totally dependent on your Internet connection, which with WiFi can have varying quality within a building. And, if the power goes out your laptop battery will still work but possibly not your modem.

All this reliance on the Internet has increased demand for smart homes. These can guarantee the highest speeds and best signal by using a structured wiring plan along with a network panel.