Cloud computing has become one of the most confusing terms in the history of computer technology. Most people have no idea what “put it in the cloud” means, including the people who claim to have invented “the cloud.” With this level of confusion among ostensibly well-informed technologists, it stands to reason the general public will have a much harder time understanding what the terms mean and why they are important.
Here are a few things you should tell your parents about cloud computing.
Cloud Means Server
It is far more useful to understand the correct terms for these technologies primarily because it removes the confusion about what exactly is going on when a link is clicked or an upload button is pressed.
Client-server computer architecture has been around for more than 40 years. It is the primary means by which almost all Internet services are delivered. The only reason “cloud” became the pseudo-brand-name of client-server architecture is because some believed referring to a smart phone or tablet as a “computer” would be confusing.
In almost any conversation about technology, the word “cloud” can be replaced with the word “server” without changing the meaning of the sentence.
The Cloud is Insecure
The main thing to remember when uploading data to the “cloud” is that once it leaves your computer it is no longer yours. As the user of a remote server and the services it provides, you have no legal authority to compel the provider of those services to handle your data in any particular way.
Your files can be lost, stolen, misappropriated and in some cases commercialized and you will have absolutely no recourse to recover them and regain control over their use. This can’t be overemphasized. If you have files you don’t want others to control, don’t put them in the cloud.
The Cloud is Expensive
While big companies have done everything they can to make you believe everything on the Internet is free, the truth is everything on the Internet is more expensive than you think. If you are getting the service free, you are the product. Keep this in mind when you are planning to add a cloud component to your workflow or as a backup option for sensitive and irreplaceable data. What is free today may have a price tag tomorrow, and price tags are usually expensive.
The Cloud is Incompatible
One need only look to the browser wars of the late 1990s to recognize how quickly the Internet can be rendered incompatible with your computer. Because the “cloud” is always under someone else’s control, you have no way to secure your access to your files unless you own the remote machine. Keep this in mind when you are utilizing the cloud for storage purposes or as a remote application platform for a company or project. With the flip of a switch, your access can be turned off for as long as the server operator wants.
Cloud is a Brand Name
When you hear “cloud” instead of “server,” it’s because someone is trying to sell you something. Make sure you know what you are buying and why.
The word “cloud” is by no means the first time technologists have tried to dazzle customers with official-sounding terminology. As long as you are aware how the technology works, you’ll be far less likely to stumble when the hype doesn’t live up to the reality.