What's "Cloud Computing"?

4 minutes
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A brief explanation, contrasting desktop-and-local-network business computing with Internet-based software services.


Let me start off by talking a little bit about what is cloud for those of you who try and stay out of all the technology hype, you may have heard the phrase you may have seen it in print doesn't necessarily mean it's meaningful. And friends and colleagues that I asked to review this course said might be useful to orient people to what you mean by cloud computing, since you end up using the term so much. So let's do that. There was a point in time when business communication business data, most of the 20th century was paper and live voice conversations, right. You had filing cabinets, you had telephones. Obviously, the advent of the personal computer really started shifting business information and business calculation into digital form.

You start saying we're storing records that way we're calculating and it'll fill in the blanks, rates, prices, whatever, using these devices. And that shift stuck around for quite a stretch companies made a fairly big investment in And it looked like the way things were gonna be done for a long time. Nothing's constant change, right? It's a great book by Nicholas Carr called the big switch that in some ways laid some of the intellectual foundation for this. He made the comparison between what happened with electricity. And what's happening with computing.

He said, Look, we used to have generators, in plants and generators, in factories to create electricity. Eventually, it didn't make sense. We started doing it centrally, and people would get their power from the power grid. Maybe the same thing is gonna happen with computing, I'm simplifying a really interesting book on it is, although electricity and data aren't the same thing, your data and my data are not the same. your sewing machine doesn't care whether it gets the electrons that my toaster might have used. So that's a very fundamental difference.

And I think it has some implications in terms of this amazing explosion of storage, leaving that kind of geeky stuff aside, and I talked about cloud compute I'm really talking about starting to get data, and computation and communication from systems that are operating somewhere else on the internet, most likely operated by another company, and you're subscribing to them and using them. You're not necessarily licensing, you're buying software in the sense that you got used to doing that in the PC era. But nonetheless, someone's designed something that helps us solve a business information problem or run a business process. And the big shift is, that thing is now somewhere else. We used. We use this symbol in network diagrams, this cloud symbol, and I think that's probably the source of this cloud computing thing.

Someone said, Look, you know, let's use the cloud name for what's happening out there. But honestly, the internet is is the transport for the information back and forth, as broadband as fast internet. connections have become more available. Software as a Service. As a as, which is the kind of cloud computing I'll be talking about for the most part became possible. I'll give you a really simple example I will refer to this a lot of times through the rest of the course, the invoicing system that my company uses, does not run on our computers, we open a web browser, and we go to a URL at freshbooks happens to be the name of the company.

And there's an account for us, and our invoices and our customer records and our who paid and things like that are up there in the cloud, kind of simple, right? And we pay a monthly fee. For the use of that we stopped paying the monthly fee, they turn it off, we can download and backup our data. But we can't take the functions that freshbooks provides and run away with them to really, really simple terms. When I talk about cloud computing, for small to medium sized business, I'm talking about systems that are running somewhere else. I'll talk in the next section.

Because I'm trying to keep this short about why that shift is useful and what some of the advantages are, as I see them, so let's talk why in a second.

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