It wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary to see stacks of CDs and software boxes at a workstation prior to cloud-based technology. This scene wasn’t limited to corporate offices - a Microsoft Word packaging and AOL free trial disc avalanche was a very real possibility in 90’s coat closets. If the physical clutter wasn’t enough to annoy users, they were guaranteed to find frustration in the tedium of maintaining up-to-date software and subsequent costs. Thankfully, cloud-based technology was made public at the turn of the century. With an uplifting name to match, this technology helped users usher in a new, minimalistic era.
The cloud is like a virtual storage unit for software, documents, photos, and various files. But, instead of having to drive to access the unit, it can be opened via any wifi-capable device. The cloud system most users encounter is software as a service (SaaS), common examples include Google Drive, Netflix, Facebook. It’s understandable how the SaaS iCloud can be confused as the one-and-only cloud; however, iCloud is an Apple-specific software that happens to contain the word cloud.
Some SaaS accounts grant access to specific shared information, like Netflix’s shows and movies. Other SaaS can be more user specific, like Facebook accounts. Facebook accounts are unique to each person, company, hobby, or deceased rock star. You can upload and publicly or privately share any file, within reason (disclaimer: do not blame me if you get flagged for your content choices). Facebook cloud accounts are like internet snowflakes, no two are the same. You aren’t going to be able to check out what shows up on Doug The Pug’s feed, unless you’ve coaxed his password out with some choice dog treats.
SaaS’s such as Google Drive and Dropbox can particularly helpful to work teams who need to collaborate on one file.
Even though what you’re storing on the cloud seems to floating around in cyberspace, it’s being held in what’s called a server farm. You can think of this as a giant computer, big enough to hold your files and those of millions of other people. So, it isn’t really a cloud as much as it is a huge warehouse full of crazy looking computers.
Information stored on cloud-based software isn’t protected by a lock and key; it’s guarded by something more powerful, encryption. This strange-sounding term is used to describe a modern defense tactic that keeps information safe while it’s in transit and stored in the cloud. Hackers can intercept at anytime when a user is accessing something in the cloud, encryption helps deter these incidents by making what you’re doing indecipherable to outsiders.
In addition to taking up zero physical space, cloud-based software doesn’t require much time for maintenance. Once upon a time, users had to be vigilant about keeping up with software updates. When an update came out, users had to manually install it to their computer. Cloud-based software companies will automatically update. Sometimes this happens on a daily basis, eliminating the need for large, time- and data-consuming updates.
Cloud-based software can be used on PC, laptop, phone, or other device, as long as there is an internet connection to download it. This creates versatility and ease of use.
The dependency on WiFi can be problematic for cloud-based technologies. We are all familiar with the eruption of feelings that accompanies an internet outage. If a user hasn’t already downloaded the components necessary to complete a job before an internet outage, they’re going to have to accept to defeat, or temporarily uproot their work and seek the nearest WiFi.
There are times when an accessibility issue is beyond internet access; global outages of SaaS can swiftly stop a user’s productivity. Typically, these issues are quickly addressed, and oftentimes it goes undetected by most users. There have been instances where the outages were prolonged.
With all the benefits cloud-based technology has given the world, these possible downsides should be easy to deal with.
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