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Computing in the Cloud
Cloud computing is a new buzz word. Companies claim that by moving to the cloud, you can save money and streamline your computing needs. Is that true? In some cases. But there are tradeoffs.
Using the cloud allows you to do two main things: access software programs remotely, and store data remotely. This means that you can get to your programs or your data from anywhere, and that you do not have to buy and install tons of separate software programs or store your data on your computer hard drive.
Email programs such as gmail are basic examples of cloud computing. In order to use gmail, you don’t have to download a specific software; you simply access the software through your web browser. Some cloud-based applications require that you download software that lets you access the cloud and its software. However, usually you have to load only one software package in order to access a whole range of applications in the cloud.
This makes it much easier for you to access your data from anywhere. Once you get access to the cloud, you can use your software or get at your files, photos, music, etc. without having physical access to your computer. That’s because the information you need is all in the cloud. As long as you can get to the Internet, you can get to what you need.
You also can store data in the cloud rather than on your own hard drive. This automatically backs up your stuff, which provides an additional layer of protection. The cloud also can provide more storage capacity than you can get on your hard drive. In fact, the cloud can offer virtually unlimited storage, usually at a reasonable cost.
You can save money using the cloud in a couple of ways. First, you probably will save money on software, since you won’t need to buy and load multiple programs. You also might save money on hardware. Because you don’t need as powerful a computer to run programs in the cloud – the computers in the cloud run those programs for you – you might not have to update your hardware as often.
So what is the down side? The biggest potential questions revolve around security and privacy. Since you no longer have physical control over your data -- such as you do when you store it on your home computer – you no longer have control of what happens to that data.
Of course, cloud computing companies go to great lengths to ensure that your data is safe and kept private with them, but some users prefer the control of owning everything themselves.
On the other hand, moving your data to the cloud can increase your security by spreading out the risk. For example, a fire could destroy your home computer and all the data stored on it. Even people who buy an automatic backup device usually keep that device right next to their computer, which makes it equally vulnerable to a home disaster.
The final decision is up to you, of course, and it might depend on the kind of computing you do. But it probably is worth your while to check out how the cloud might be able to work for you.