So the cloud, for big businesses and the home computer user, has become a part of day to day life
First of all, we need to make sure we have a clear understanding of cloud computing as opposed to what most of us have known as computing. Setting medium and large scale business environments aside for the moment, what we know as computing has been the purchase and installation of an application for our Windows or Mac computer. Whether installed from floppy disk, CD or DVD, the application and its data reside on a hard drive in your home or small business. The most fundamental example would be word processing, where to write a letter, and in a fashion superior to the typewriter, we would purchase a computer, printer and word processing software. We compose a letter, print it, put it into an envelope and affix a stamp. Let me assert that the cloud version of this activity is sending and e-mail.
But the cloud is more than word processing, just as the applications we bought for our PC or Mac consisted of a richer variety than just something to improve on the typewriter. We learned of spreadsheets, contact managers, stock portfolio tracking, and a long list of niche applications. When the internet began to take form, two services, AOL and Compuserve offered users not just bulletin boards to communicate, but applications began to develop where we could track our stocks without installing a specific application on our computer or even storing the data on a hard drive in our small office. Nowadays we use a computer at home, at the office, perhaps an ultraportable computer for flying and even our cell phone to access, update and utilize applications on the cloud.
The cloud may still store a small bit of data on your hard drive, as in cookies for instance. Rather than retyping your login name every time you visit a web-site, sometimes the webpages are programmed to ‘default’ to the user name you have used before. In fact the cloud is complex and relies on layers of computing deeper than just your computer and the other end of your network connection. First there are rooms full of computer equipment cooled by huge air conditioning systems. On those rooms full of computers are their own breed of operating systems, mostly based on Unix but some based on the Windows Server operating system. Finally, the modern equivalents of AOL and Compuserve, now thousands of companies, provide applications for home computer users, small businesses, medium and even large corporations.
Going back to the e-mail example, their is not a large corporation that is not using e-mail heavily for communication, and the operation of such a system cannot be done without sending information back and forth through the public computer systems that make up the internet. In the last five years almost no business manages their day to day bamking without using their banks ‘cloud’ application for checking balances, checks, deposits and initiating transfers from clearing accouts to interest bearing accounts for longer term storage of liquid capital. For example, even Apple Computer, with in excess of ten billion dollars in cash, relies on applications in the cloud to manage banking needs, it would be a waste of millions of dollars in un-captured interest returns if they delayed even a few hours the proper accounting of liquid capital assets in the form of cash reserves.
So the cloud, for big businesses and the home computer user, has become a part of day to day life. We all can create Yahoo acounts to manage our stock portfolio, whether real or imagined positions, and the cloud stores and updates the value of such positions.