Cloud Computing

Up in the Clouds

There is a lot of buzz today about the “Cloud.”   What is this exactly and how can it work for you?  This article will answer those and other questions.

The History

For decades now the Internet has been depicted in drawings as a cloud:


Every time you use your browser to explore the Internet you are connecting to this “Internet Cloud.”  A server somewhere in the world is hosting the website that appears on your computer screen.

So why use the cloud symbolism?  Since you don’t know exactly where the server is located (and don’t really care) the cloud represents the mysterious connection between your computer and that server.

In the years before telecommunication satellites, our telephone system was a huge wired network that connected the whole country.  A call placed in Seattle to a phone in New York City would travel a route across the country that might pass through Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Chicago, and Cleveland before reaching New York City.  The next time it might first connect to Los Angeles and then follow a completely different route.  We could have used a Cloud to represent this network as well.

What Can You Do in the Cloud?

Since you are reading this article, you are already using the cloud. If you use a backup service such as Mozy ( ) or Carbonite ( ), you are storing that backup data in the cloud.

Traditionally, you have bought software that you install locally on your computer and create files that are also stored locally.

You can now purchase something called Software as a Service (SaaS) which means you connect to the cloud and run software located there.  This is a pay-as-you-go type of system with a monthly fee instead of up front expense.  You also don’t need to install updates or buy new versions in the future. Google Apps ( ) and Microsoft Cloud Computing ( ) can give you a good overview of this concept.  Businesses can use a product like QuickBooks Online ( ) to handle their accounting needs.

You can also share information stored in the cloud with others.  This usually comes in the form of photographs shared on a website.  You can use a free product called Dropbox ( to share any type of file.  This is helpful when you have a large file that e-mail might not handle adequately.

Things to Consider

This sounds great but are there things that should concern you?

All of this depends on a high-speed internet connection. I advise getting the highest speed connection available, if you want to pursue this technology. However, when your connection goes down, you are dead in the water until it returns.

The provider’s service must be up and running.  You will be out of luck until it comes back online.

Performance is determined by the connection speed.  For example, backing up your entire computer can take up to several days to complete.  Bringing back the information can be equally slow. For this reason, I recommend maintaining a local backup on an external drive as additional protection.

Since your information is “out there” somewhere that is not under your direct control, be sure to investigate and be comfortable with the security provided by the supplier.


This technology is changing every day and is well worth checking into regularly to see what is new and if it would work for you.

Disclaimer:  I do not receive any compensation from products mentioned in this article.

About Dick Buchanan

I started working with computers some 25 years ago when my wife, Carol, and I purchased our first PC which was a Kaypro IV CP/M machine. This lead to studying computer science at Seattle Pacific University and becoming a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). During this time I have worked for The Boeing Company, IBM Global Services, and Microsoft. I currently own and operate a local computing services company called Byte Savvy located in Kalispell, MT
This entry was posted in General Interest. Bookmark the permalink.