From what it promises to be, cloud computing is destined to become as big a phenomenon in the world of cyberspace as perhaps the creation of cyberspace itself. Apple’s unveiling of the iCloud has initiated the process. Soon a day might come when clouds will fully replace and eliminate the use of physical hard-drives as all our content will be stored there, always ready to be retrieved by any device capable of doing so.
But what really is this cloud computing? And how greatly will it impact our digital lives? Alas, the answer to this second question is probably not as simple and direct as the first. To begin with, cloud computing is a digital concept – “the cloud” is the space on the internet where data from multiple devices can be stored. To retrieve data simply requires an internet access and can be done by any device that supports the particular format of what is to be retrieved. So, for instance, if you’ve stored some music on the cloud through your desktop, and want to listen to that track on your ipod when you’re out, all you have to do is go into the cloud through that ipod to access that track.
To many of us, this isn’t something new. For example, we already use clouds to store simple data if we use mail services such as Gmail or Hotmail to store our emails, and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to store photos and other digital paraphernalia. Many file sharing sites such as Rapidshare, in which you simply upload your data on a server, make it possible for you to shift even bigger chunks of your digital payload onto the internet, giving you the freedom to retrieve those files on any computer with an internet access anywhere in the world.
These known forms of cloud computing are only capable of storing simple data. However, next generation cloud computing promises an entire new level of digital freedom. Not only will you be able to store data, but you will probably also be able to upload executable programs on to the clouds, having the power to access them through any device built to support those programs, anywhere in the world.
The consequences of this technology will obviously be immense. Future devices will be smaller and lighter as they no longer will have chunky hard drives. Since everything will be available on the clouds, you won’t have to back up critical documents, or synchronize your devices. Entertainment will reach an all new level. Physical discs will become a thing of the past. You’ll be able to access entire libraries of movies from anywhere in the world. In other words, travelling will become lighter and much more convenient. Business travellers will be able to work with any of their files on flights, in hotels and in cabs, all through their small pda phones.
Other similar advantages are obvious. And although clouds will have certain hurdles, such as the need for a fast internet connection – something that is not available in most of the developing world – in time they will definitely come into full operation. That will indeed be the beginning of a new cyber era.