What is the cloud?

You hear a lot about ‘the cloud’, but how does it ac­tu­ally work?

Mac Format - - CLOUD SYNCING -

The term ‘cloud’ im­plies some­thing that’s above your head, but in re­al­ity the data that you up­load is likely to be stored very much at ground level or even un­der­ground, and prob­a­bly thou­sands of miles away from your lo­ca­tion. A cloud ser­vice is ac­tu­ally a clus­ter of com­put­ers: more ac­cu­rately, a huge num­ber of servers with vast amounts of hard drive stor­age at­tached. It’s a nat­u­ral evo­lu­tion of the tech­nol­ogy be­hind the in­ter­net it­self and has come about largely thanks to rapid im­prove­ments in global band­width and the plum­met­ing price of stor­age ca­pac­ity.

The in­ter­net is ac­tu­ally just a col­lec­tion of data cen­tres – al­beit many thou­sands – all con­nected through var­i­ous global hubs and thou­sands of miles of heavy-duty un­der­sea ca­bling. As the web grew and com­pa­nies like Mi­crosoft, Ap­ple, Google and Ama­zon came to use it more and more for ser­vices, sales and soft­ware de­liv­ery, it be­came nec­es­sary to build large server farms and data cen­tres to cope with the sheer vol­ume of vis­i­tors and in­for­ma­tion they had to store and serve to users. Com­pa­nies like Aka­mai grew cor­re­spond­ingly, pro­vid­ing heavy­weight video stream­ing and con­tent de­liv­ery for other big tech com­pa­nies. Band­width isn’t free, and big tele­coms firms round the world own the phys­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture and charge your ISP for it.

The idea that or­di­nary users could use cloud stor­age be­gan to take off as home broad­band started to be­come widely avail­able. Com­pa­nies would of­fer on­line file stor­age, but for a long time ca­pac­i­ties were low and prices high. Ap­ple’s own early for­ays into the world of cloud stor­age were not en­tirely blem­ish-free, with iTools and later .Mac and Mo­bileMe fail­ing to live up to the company’s rep­u­ta­tion for ease of use. With iCloud, that early vi­sion has been much more fully re­alised.

At the same time many other de­vel­op­ers (Drop­box, Mi­crosoft, Google, Ama­zon and Box, to name just a few) built their own cloud sync­ing and shar­ing ser­vices that usu­ally work across Macs, PCs, iOS de­vices and of­ten An­droid. Though Ap­ple and Mi­crosoft have an in­ter­est in mak­ing their cloud ser­vices in­te­grate specif­i­cally with their own op­er­at­ing sys­tems and hard­ware, third party de­vel­op­ers want to be on all the big plat­forms, which is great news for users be­cause it means you can of­ten ac­cess stuff from your dif­fer­ent de­vices.

When you up­load or sync a file or a folder to the cloud, it is lit­er­ally be­ing copied dig­i­tally to your al­lo­cated space on a server some­where on the planet. The fact it takes mere seconds to up­load or down­load be­lies the vast dis­tance that the data may be trav­el­ling. Cloud stor­age works like a con­nected hard drive, ex­cept that rather than plug­ging in over USB, it’s re­mote and linked over the in­ter­net. The same ap­plies to mo­bile de­vices too, and it’s th­ese that

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.