“Cloud” is a computing environment, where application software and documents will be saved and run from remote servers through a connection (mostly internet) to your computer. Evidently, software installation on your computer will be on a very small scale since it will be run from somewhere else. All you need to install on your hard disk is the minimum software required to communicate through internet. You do not even need a large hard disk for saving your documents because of the same reason. Hard disk may be needed only for offline use of locally saved documents.
Although cloud applications have been around for more than a decade now, its recent growth is phenomenal. Free/ultra cheap cloud services have been an attractive alternative to many hard-disk-savvy applications these days. Oh, don’t forget the enormous cost savings by eliminating the need for IT professional to program, run, and maintain many corporate systems that can run on cheap cloud applications. It could be started from basic free services like Google Docs, MSN Skydrive, Cloud based antivirus (like Panda Cloud), to more of an advanced and paid form like Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365. How about the whole OS (operating system) migrating from hard disk based Windows/Linux to cloud based Google Chrome? The shift of preference to cloud is tremendous and advancing.
There are certain advantages to use cloud environment. You (almost) never loose your work due to hard disk failure, unknown viruses, or damage to your computer due to coffee spills from your cup! Since nothing is in your computer, you feel secure. All of the cloud services are 24/7 with 99.99% uptime, including customer service. Comparing the cost vs. benefit, cloud may be the most rational choice today.
How about trust and privacy? In exchange of substantial economic returns, are we giving up more of “us” in the hands of “others” where they can monitor what and why we are doing as we do? You would probably say “nay, they have respect for our privacy”. Read carefully, every cloud service contract would require you to agree to deal with contents that are “appropriate”. Apparently, it is quite fair to expect that, isn’t it? The problem is, how would they intervene in our content if they cannot access what we are doing? The result would be a complete set of individual and institutional information including our identity, shopping behavior, social behavior etc. falling in the hands of big cloud corporations. It might result in more targeted advertisement, more focused product offers, more satisfaction at the cost of privacy.
It seems like Cloud is a misnomer. It might be shrouding your vision when you compare nominal cost vs. benefit, but the objective is to see you more clearly now than you could be seen through someone else’s eyes in the past.