Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - LEE RICKWOOD

Yes, “the cloud” is fore­cast as the lat­est and great­est tool for per­sonal and busi­ness com­put­ing.

But there’s still con­fu­sion about the cloud, and what it means for you.

Ba­si­cally, the cloud is an­other term for the In­ter­net.

The cloud is a col­lec­tion of com­put­ers, hooked to­gether to pro­vide much more power or stor­age space than just one com­puter.

These com­put­ers in the sky (re­ally, huge data server farms phys­i­cally sprin­kled across the coun­try) can be ac­cessed from al­most any de­vice with an In­ter­net con­nec­tion.

Cloud com­put­ing means you are ac­cess­ing files and pro­grams on the In­ter­net, not your own desk­top PC.

Take Face­book (www. face­ — your pic­tures are stored in the cloud, and the pro­gram that al­lows you and your friends to add com­ments to them is in the clouds, too.

It’s the same with busi­ness data — the in­for­ma­tion you put into a spread­sheet re­sides in the cloud, not your of­fice PC. The pro­gram you use to an­a­lyze that in­for­ma­tion also lives in the cloud, and you con­nect with it to get your work done.

That means a trav­el­ling sales­per­son can ac­cess im­por­tant com­pany data, such as prod­uct in­ven­tory, no mat­ter where they are — with per­mis­sion, of course, and with an In­ter­net-con­nected de­vice.

So the cloud is a way to im­prove pro­duc­tiv­ity, col­lab­o­ra­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion among co-work­ers and clients. With pro­cess­ing power and stor­age space in the cloud, com­pa­nies can re­duce costs in the of­fice.

Google Docs (docs. and Microsoft’s Of­fice 365 (www. fice365/on­line-soft­ware. aspx) are busi­ness-ori­ented tools in the cloud.

For con­sumers, the cloud prom­ises easy ac­cess to per­sonal files like mu­sic and movies. Once they’re in the cloud, you don’t have to sync or copy them from one de­vice (such as your desk­top PC) to an­other de­vice (such as your smart­phone and/or lap­top).

Ap­ple’s new iCloud ser­vice (www.ap­ icloud/) is just one ex­am­ple of how dig­i­tal me­dia is mov­ing to the cloud. Noth­ing lives on your de­vice — it’s in the clouds, spread across mul­ti­ple com­put­ers owned or op­er­ated by some­one else.

That’s where some con­cerns over the cloud first ap­pear.

Pri­vacy and se­cu­rity for per­sonal files is im­por­tant; for busi­ness, it’s mis­sion crit­i­cal.

Stor­ing valu­able data “out in the cloud some­where” may not be as safe and se­cure stor­ing it on a de­vice you can put your hands on.

The wor­ries are not un­founded — in the re­cent Sony PlayS­ta­tion net­work breach, mil­lions of per­sonal records stored in the cloud were com­pro­mised.

When Ama­zon’s cloud net­work crashed last April, it was un­able to pro­vide valu­able ser­vices that other com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als re­lied upon.

Well be­fore these breaches took place, Canada’s Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner was cau­tion­ing peo­ple about “Reach­ing for the Cloud” in a re­port of the same name. (www.priv.­for­ma­tion/pub/ cc_201003_e.cfm)

Pri­vacy and se­cu­rity, ju­ris­dic­tional au­thor­ity and data pro­tec­tion are among the com­mis­sioner’s con­cerns over cloud com­put­ing.

So while pre­dic­tions for the fu­ture of cloud com­put­ing are bright and sunny, care­ful com­puter users may want to carry an um­brella just in case.

Cour­tesy, Whatsyourt­

Ex­plain­ing the cloud in a nut­shell: Many de­vices, one cen­tral in­for­ma­tion repos­i­tory.

Cour­tesy, Whatsyourt­

Canada’s Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner is cau­tion­ing users about pri­vacy and se­cu­rity in the cloud.

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