Remember the 2010 Microsoft TV commercial which showed a mother editing her family photos and telling us to “Go to the Cloud”? The ad showed a woman sitting at a computer substituting smiling faces onto a photo of her posed, but unruly, husband and children. Not surprisingly, the commercial flopped as it never explained the meaning of “the cloud.” Even today, well over a year later, not everyone understands what “the cloud” means in the world of technology.
The easiest way to think of “cloud computing” is to substitute the word “Internet” for “cloud.” “Cloud-based computing” becomes “Internet-based computing.”
If you are doing word processing or photo editing “in the cloud,” you are performing those activities via Internet. Since you are using Internet, you don’t need to own any hardware or software beyond those you already have, such as an Internet browser.
Another term for cloud-based computing is SaaS or Software-as-a-Service. By doing your computing via the Internet, you are receiving delivery of your applications as a service.
Home-based cloud computing services include web-based email which allows you to check your email from anywhere, backups for photos and other large files, and file-sharing, which allows others to access your photos or files. Games are becoming an increasingly popular form of SaaS products, also.
Many business softwares, including SalesForce (a customer relationship and sales tool) and QuickBooks Online (financial application) are now cloud-based.
How do I Access SaaS Computing?
Accessing a service via the cloud is usually as simple as opening a browser on your computer and logging in.
Is it Secure?
The service handles security, not you. Reputable companies store files on more than one server and in more than one location. Most SaaS companies have secure logins and can provide you with information on their security measures. In terms of privacy, a good service uses safeguards such as SSL encryption for file transfers, and encrypted file storage so personal information is unlikely to be hacked. A service should also assure you that servers are guarded both by security personnel and by technology such as fingerprint scanners which allow authorized access only.
What are the Benefits?
- Accessibility — the service is available from any computer that can access the Internet.
- Affordability — without the expense of additional hardware or software, capital outlay is reduced. Also, some subscriptions qualify as an operating expense.
- Automatic Updates — updates are generally included, automatic, and seamless.
- Flexibility — you identify the number of subscriptions needed which means no extra unused copies of software lying around.
- Ease of Use — implementation if usually fairly simple and ongoing support is typically included in your subscription.
As with everything, there are pros and cons to cloud-based computing. In many cases, the benefits of SaaS computing makes using this technology worthwhile, but be sure to check out the security features.