Cloud Computing

by BelgaumOnline.com on 12/02/2013 - 07:32 am


Today you no longer need to save all your documents on one particular device. Instead, you can access your files from any terminal at any time, thanks to “cloud computing.

Instead of installing a suite of software for each computer, you'd only have to load one application. That application would allow workers to log into a Web-based service which hosts all the programs the user would need for his or her job. Remote machines owned by another company would run everything from e-mail to word processing to complex data analysis programs. It's called cloud computing, and it could change the entire computer industry.


In a cloud computing system, there's a significant workload shift. Local computers no longer have to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to running applications. The network of computers that make up the cloud handles them instead. Hardware and software demands on the user's side decrease. The only thing the user's computer needs to be able to run is the cloud computing system's interface software, which can be as simple as a Web browser, and the cloud's network takes care of the rest.

There's a good chance you've already used some form of cloud computing. If you have an e-mail account with a Web-based e-mail service like Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail or Gmail, then you've had some experience with cloud computing. Instead of running an e-mail program on your computer, you log in to a Web e-mail account remotely. The software and storage for your account doesn't exist on your computer -- it's on the service's computer cloud.


Cloud Computing Architecture

When talking about a cloud computing system, it's helpful to divide it into two sections: the front end and the back end. They connect to each other through a network, usually the Internet. The front end is the side the computer user, or client, sees. The back end is the "cloud" section of the system.
The front end includes the client's computer (or computer network) and the application required to access the cloud computing system. Not all cloud computing systems have the same user interface. Services like Web-based e-mail programs leverage existing Web browsers like Internet Explorer or Firefox. Other systems have unique applications that provide network access to clients.
On the back end of the system are the various computers, servers and data storage systems that create the "cloud" of computing services. In theory, a cloud computing system could include practically any computer program you can imagine, from data processing to video games. Usually, each application will have its own dedicated server.

A central server administers the system, monitoring traffic and client demands to ensure everything runs smoothly. It follows a set of rules called protocols and uses a special kind of software called middleware. Middleware allows networked computers to communicate with each other. Most of the time, servers don't run at full capacity. That means there's unused processing power going to waste. It's possible to fool a physical server into thinking it's actually multiple servers, each running with its own independent operating system.
The technique is called server virtualization. By maximizing the output of individual servers, server virtualization reduces the need for more physical machines.
If a cloud computing company has a lot of clients, there's likely to be a high demand for a lot of storage space. Some companies require hundreds of digital storage devices. Cloud computing systems need at least twice the number of storage devices it requires to keep all its clients' information stored. That's because these devices, like all computers, occasionally break down. A cloud computing system must make a copy of all its clients' information and store it on other devices. The copies enable the central server to access backup machines to retrieve data that otherwise would be unreachable. Making copies of data as a backup is called redundancy.

Advantages

1. Worldwide Access. Cloud computing increases mobility, as you can access your documents from any device in any part of the world. For businesses, this means that employees can work from home or on business trips, without having to carry around documents. This increases productivity and allows faster exchange of information. Employees can also work on the same document without having to be in the same place.

2. More Storage. In the past, memory was limited by the particular device in question. If you ran out of memory, you would need a USB drive to backup your current device. Cloud computing provides increased storage, so you won’t have to worry about running out of space on your hard drive.

3. Easy Set-Up. You can set up a cloud computing service in a matter of minutes. Adjusting your individual settings, such as choosing a password or selecting which devices you want to connect to the network, is similarly simple. After that, you can immediately start using the resources, software, or information in question.

4. Automatic Updates. The cloud computing provider is responsible for making sure that updates are available – you just have to download them. This saves you time, and furthermore, you don’t need to be an expert to update your device; the cloud computing provider will automatically notify you and provide you with instructions.

5. Reduced Cost. Cloud computing is often inexpensive. The software is already installed online, so you won’t need to install it yourself. There are numerous cloud computing applications available for free, such as Dropbox, and increasing storage size and memory is affordable. If you need to pay for a cloud computing service, it is paid for incrementally on a monthly or yearly basis. By choosing a plan that has no contract, you can terminate your use of the services at any time; therefore, you only pay for the services when you need them.

Disadvantages

1. Security. When using a cloud computing service, you are essentially handing over your data to a third party. The fact that the entity, as well as users from all over the world, are accessing the same server can cause a security issue. Companies handling confidential information might be particularly concerned about using cloud computing, as data could possibly be harmed by viruses and other malware. That said, some servers like Google Cloud Connect come with customizable spam filtering, email encryption, and SSL enforcement for secure HTTPS access, among other security measures.

2. Privacy. Cloud computing comes with the risk that unauthorized users might access your information. To protect against this happening, cloud computing services offer password protection and operate on secure servers with data encryption technology.

3. Loss of Control. Cloud computing entities control the users. This includes not only how much you have to pay to use the service, but also what information you can store, where you can access it from, and many other factors. You depend on the provider for updates and backups. If for some reason, their server ceases to operate, you run the risk of losing all your information.

4. Internet Reliance. While Internet access is increasingly widespread, it is not available everywhere just yet. If the area that you are in doesn’t have Internet access, you won’t be able to open any of the documents you have stored in the cloud.

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