What is ‘cloud computing’ and how will it change the lives of ordinary consumers?

by admin on July 25, 2011

“It used to be pretty close to zero not too long ago,” said Lee Rainie, director of Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. “And now it is a common part of almost anyone’s experience on the Internet.”

It’s generated a host of new services. For instance, Apple Inc. will launch its iCloud service this fall, which stores documents, photos and your calendar and synchonizes it to all your devices, such as your iPhone, iPad and laptop computer.

Amazon has the Amazon Cloud Drive, which is basically a big hard drive on the Internet. A new breed of laptops called Chromebooks use the cloud and services like Google Docs to create and store information, or run applications.

Roxbury resident Steve Guberman uses Dropbox to store documents so he can view them anywhere. The cloud also dampens any worries that he might lose precious data if his computer’s hard drive crashes.

“You can share family photos either through Facebook or Flickr, (a photo-sharing website) so they can be accessed anywhere,” said Guberman, creative director of Fifth Room Creative in Denville. “They are really easily backed up. If my computer crashes, everything is out there on the cloud.”

It has also become an integral part of business. Restaurant review site Yelp and movie information site IMDB both exist on the cloud, powered by the server fields of Amazon Web Services.

It gives businesses a way to cut down on the costs of buying computers and servers and hiring the staff needed to take care of them.

“By storing things centrally, you pass the burden of system administration, backup and virus protection to these big cloud vendors who basically have larger and more experienced staff to deal with those sorts of issues,” said Michael Lesk, a professor at Rutgers University’s School of Communication Information.

Red Bank resident John Hansen uses the cloud for his creative services business, Core Studios. He shares documents with writers and even clients. But as important, it allows him to cut down on the cost of infrastructure technology.

For instance, it would cost more than $100,000 to buy powerful computers that he would need to process and render animations quickly on deadline. Instead, he uploads the project to the cloud so 150 processors can chew on it at a fraction of the expense.

“The overhead is able to be kept very small and a lot of it is due to the fact of these cloud services,” Hansen said.

MediaRoost, a Metuchen company, runs its service, which helps businesses manage multiple Twitter accounts, on the cloud. It makes it easy to grow. If they need to add more capacity on a server, they can do it with a click of a button, said company President Mark Krieger.

“They give you computers and disk space and back up services and they give you access to log into those computers as if the computers are right in your living room, in your office,” Krieger said.

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