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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Technology

Here comes the cloud
Gagandeep Singh Sapra, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, April 12, 2013
First Published: 22:51 IST(12/4/2013)
Last Updated: 09:50 IST(13/4/2013)

The monsoon is still two months away at least, but the cloud is hot news.


Everyone seems to have heard of it, though only the geeks seem to greet the word with a glint in their eyes. So what exactly is this cloud computing? We guide you.

Broadly, cloud is a reference to work done on remote computers through a widely connected network — for all practical purposes, the Internet. The ‘cloud’ is a reference to the fuzzy spots across a global network from where you may be accessing files or getting some data crunching done.

Any application that you use, such as creating a Word or Excel document online, or plotting a graph using a website such as Editgrid.com, is part of cloud computing.  Now, let us look at how the world uses the cloud and try to understand a bit of how it works.

Email
Whether you are using Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Outlook.com, the email is stored on the cloud. The front end — the Website that you visit — connects you to the cloud, where the data is stored, which is the back-end. Your email is served from the nearest server (network computer), depending on your location. If one set of servers goes down, the service switches seamlessly to another set, and you wouldn’t be any wiser about it.

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This is a clear example of both cloud computing (exchanging messages, running filters, tagging them) and cloud storage (saving of messages, calendar, attachments in messages etc).

Social media
The whole social media movement is around us, whether you are on  Facebook or Google+ or Twitter.

If we did not have cloud computing, these social media networks would have remained small and localised affairs, limited to communities.

But with networks, routers, computers, and engineers working behind the scene, and data moving at the speed of light, social media networks have become a great example of cloud computing and storage.

That’s exactly what makes Facebook feel like an extended global family.

File storage
There was a time when we stored our data files on floppy disks and then went to CDs. Suddenly, storage is all-too-easy and cheap, because it is on the Web. Now there is Box.net or a Dropbox that store files and help you switch easily between your laptop storage and “cloud storage”

This article was written on an iPad and used “cloud storage” before it was mailed to Hindustan Times.

Sound and video
When you watch a video on YouTube, you have “cloud servers” at the back-end streaming your favourite video.

Sites such as Saavn.com and Hungama.com let you stream music for free in a similar manner.

This article was written on an iPad and used “cloud storage” before it was mailed to Hindustan Times.

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Caution
The flip side of the cloud computing revolution is the safety. Just as people might tell you that it is important to own a house or eat at home even if you can afford to stay in hotels, there are reasons to be cautious. However, if your files are not physically in your control, it is vulnerable to someone hacking it.

Most of the data that you store on the cloud is accessed by a username and password. Typically, the username is your email ID, which is known to others. But your password is the key to your sound sleep: the more complex it is, the tougher it becomes to crack.

For individual users, having sound, complex passwords is critical, because increasingly, a lot of what we do will be on the cloud.


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