10 Truths about “the cloud”
- There is a lot of bad stuff available “in the cloud.”
- There is a lot of good stuff in “the cloud” on the Internet.
- “Cloud” services have great advantages and some disadvantages.
- Information accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection is “in the cloud.”
- Many people don’t understand the concepts of “the cloud.”
- Information stored in the cloud is more important than the device from which you access it.
- Having information instantly available any time, anywhere, is convenient and addictive.
- All social media works through “the cloud.”
- “The cloud” requires strong security to keep your private information safe from hackers.
- “The cloud” is useless without a good connection to the Internet.
The words “Beam me up Scotty” were never actually uttered by the crew of the USS Enterprise on Star Trek. But in popular American culture, those words have become synonymous with transporting the physical bodies of the crew from wherever they were to the deck of the USS Enterprise through a mysterious, virtual process (beaming??) which is never really explained.
Virtual is also how I describe today’s “cloud” services for computing which transport our typed messages, digital images and more by a mysterious process (uploading) which can’t be explained. Our “stuff” is transported to physical computers somewhere in “the cloud.” We use a similar, but opposite mysterious process (downloading) to retrieve the information we “uploaded” there back to us. The “wireless” connections we use everyday make this process even more mysterious.
Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter all have their own individual “cloud” of complex computer systems connected through the web to the Internet. These individual company clouds use their computers to do work for you such as storage for your files and pictures, or by performing useful services like communicating with your circle of folks around the world. Some company “clouds” like H&R Block perform a specific duty like calculating your income tax for you. Amazon makes it easy to spend your money shopping for physical things without ever leaving your house. Netflix, of course, provides entertainment directly to your house.
Where are these “cloud” computers we trust to hold our precious memories and provide useful services? They’re scattered all over the world, connected by this elusive thing we call the “web.” This aggregate of all the devices connected together by this worldwide communications web we have woven is commonly called “the Internet.” By extension “the web,” “the cloud,” and “the internet” are loosely the same thing.
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With recent staggering improvements in the speed of communications from your house to the particular company cloud you’re using (Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc.) it all usually happens so fast that is seems instantaneous. It’s hard to imagine that you sent a signal directly to a computer thousands of miles away and it answered with the information you needed in a matter of seconds, or possibly just fractions of seconds. It’s easy to take this ease of getting whatever we needed so quickly that we take it for granted and gripe if it takes a few seconds longer than usual. It also seems so seamless that separating “the cloud” part of this process from the screen in front of us becomes difficult. “I clicked on that and nothing happened! What’s wrong with my phone?” is a common refrain.
I hope this whole “cloudy” subject is a little clearer now for some of you. Just remember that the cloud can be either a blessing or a curse, depending on how you use it. The blessings come more readily if you use it responsibly by embracing concepts like using strong passwords, encrypted connections when possible and plain old common sense. Remember, your information “in the cloud” is on somebody else’s computer, so don’t put anything up there you don’t want them or some hacker to see, read or hear.
We use the Internet at our house for many things, some necessary like paying bills, some optional like streaming TV. And, it is mostly a blessing. But the Internet cloud is like “real” clouds outside. They can be fluffy and white, or dark and dangerous. It’s our job to be aware of and prepared to deal with both extremes, because it is all a part of our lives everyday, like it or not!