THE INTERNET CLOUD AND YOU
OUR NEW TECHNOLOGY FEATURE EXPLAINS THE LATEST ADVANCES
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. facebook.com) — 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. google.com) and Microsoft’s Office 365 (www. microsoft.com/en-ca/of- 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.apple.com/ca/ 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. gc.ca/information/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.
Explaining the cloud in a nutshell: Many devices, one central information repository.
Canada’s Privacy Commissioner is cautioning users about privacy and security in the cloud.