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Head in the Cloud

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You have probably heard the term 'cloud' thrown about a lot lately in conversations about computing, websites, and mobile technology. Countless commercials for smartphones and computer operating systems use the word, but they never seem to clearly define it. Simply put, cloud computing refers to using multiple computers, or rather, servers, as one. To fully understand what this means, let's take a look back.

In the past, the only way to run an application was to have it installed on your computer, such as word processing programs or antivirus software. This meant that each user had to purchase a license to use his/her copy of the software. With the introduction of local area networks (LANs), the client-server model was born. This allowed the software to be installed on a server and accessed from any computer on the network. Batches of licenses could be purchased, saving cost and time.

Cloud computing is the next major development in server routing. Within this system, the entire application is housed and run on a web server- not just local networks- and accessed via the user's web browser. In other words, it is not necessary to have a client version installed in your system. All updates and fixes to the software can be done on the remote server, without having to upgrade each separate computer. Conveniently, this makes it possible to retrieve documents, music, videos, and more from any internet-capable device, without the need for large applications and individual licensing.

Cloud computing offers power and security advantages as well. When you access an application on one server, you are relying on the power and latency (a measure of time delay) of that particular machine. As more people access that server, it becomes slower. Eventually the server will not be able to handle the load, and it will shut down. With cloud computing, however, the data processing is handled over a series of machines as if they were just one machine. The more power needed, the more machines employed. Endless computing power is provided as necessary, with fewer chances of capped potential. All of this occurs over a secure network that is protected for the users of the service.

The Cloud, as it is commonly known, is a vast network of computing power and information sharing that lays the foundation for our latest mobile technology. Smartphones, tablet PCs, eReaders, and other devices rely on cloud servers to function more efficiently. You may be using several cloud systems already. Cloud computing is the next evolutionary step in the computer services world, opening future opportunities for how we access our information.