----------------- Cloud Computing explained -----------------
Cloud computing means that instead of all the computer hardware and software you're using sitting on your desktop, or somewhere inside your company's network, it's provided for you as a service by another company and accessed over the Internet, usually in a completely seamless way.
Exactly where the hardware and software is located and how it all works doesn't matter to you, the user—it's just somewhere up in the nebulous "cloud" that the Internet represents.
Cloud computing is a buzzword that means different things to different people. For some, it's just another way of describing IT (information technology) "outsourcing"; others use it to mean any computing service provided over the Internet or a similar network; and some define it as any bought-in computer service you use that sits outside your firewall.
However we define cloud computing, there's no doubt it makes most sense when we stop talking about abstract definitions and look at some simple, real examples—so let's do just that.
Simple examples of cloud computing
Most of us use cloud computing all day long without realizing it. When you sit at your PC and type a query into Google, the computer on your desk isn't playing much part in finding the answers you need: it's no more than a messenger.
The words you type are swiftly shuttled over the Net to one of Google's hundreds of thousands of clustered PCs, which dig out your results and send them promptly back to you. When you do a Google search, the real work in finding your answers might be done by a computer sitting in California, Dublin, Tokyo, or Beijing; you don't know—and most likely you don't care!
Preparing documents over the Net is a newer example of cloud computing. Simply log on to a web-based service such as Google Documents and you can create a document, spreadsheet, presentation, or whatever you like using Web-based software.
Instead of typing your words into a program like Microsoft Word or OpenOffice, running on your computer, you're using similar software running on a PC at one of Google's world-wide data centres.
Like an email drafted on Hotmail, the document you produce is stored remotely, on a Web server, so you can access it from any Internet-connected computer, anywhere in the world, any time you like. Do you know where it's stored? No! Do you care where it's stored? Again, no!
Using a Web-based service like this means you're "contracting out" or "outsourcing" some of your computing needs to a company such as Google: they pay the cost of developing the software and keeping it up-to-date and they earn back the money to do this through advertising and other paid-for services.