Picture this: it’s 2005 and you’ve written the bulk of an essay that’s due tomorrow when your computer suddenly crashes. Your heart sinks into your stomach as you realize that you hadn’t saved the document. Cloud computing has eliminated the stress surrounding moments like these, so that losing data due to a hardware malfunction is almost a thing of the past.
Head in The Sky
The idea of “the cloud” is now as ubiquitous as the Internet, but it wasn’t always a native concept. Now, digital laymen and pros alike understand that cloud computing means accessing files, data, and programs via the Internet rather than your computer’s hard drive, as was the way of the past.
This allows you to essentially outsource your entire digital life (be it personal or professional)—your computer may crash, but the Internet won’t, so it’s a safety net protecting you from any unforeseen tragedies. The act of cloud computing means accessing your data and programs exclusively via the internet, rather than doing any local computing at all.
A $2 Million Question
The first hint of cloud computing came in 1963, before personal computers were even a thought, when the Defense and Research Projects Agency gave MIT $2 million to find a way that multiple people could access a computer at once. The solution was a massive memory machine that looks nothing like the modern vision of cloud computing.
In the 1990s, the idea of virtual private networks began to take shape, leading to the infrastructure of today’s idea of cloud computing. Companies like Salesforce began using cloud computing as a means through which to provide clients with software as Y2K loomed on the horizon.
Programs like Google Docs (and eventually Google Drive), iCloud, and Oracle Cloud all formed around the first decade of the 21st century, and the cloud became an integral part of a life wholly immersed in digital culture. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a business that doesn’t primarily utilize cloud computing, or a software system that doesn’t allow for some sort of cloud computing.
The 21st Century Cloud
Today, cloud computing has virtually limitless applications, both in business and for individuals. These are generally broken down into four categories: software as a service, infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, and functions as a service. The latter two are geared specifically toward developers to assist with workflow.
Some of the most well-known cloud computing services are Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Services, and IBM Cloud.
Slow Rise to Dominance
Cloud computing wasn’t exactly a science fiction topic or pop culture phenomenon. Instead, it slowly crept into public consciousness, appearing on news broadcasts and entering conversations.
The idea that all of the information once considered integral to a physical computer took some time to warm up to simply because it’s counterintuitive to the way that most laymen understood computers up until the 21st century, but it’s a concept that’s now been wholly adopted.
Today, everyone uses the cloud, whether they realize it or not. Most phones are connected to a cloud service, and businesses regularly utilize cloud computing for their servers. Humans may have made it to the moon in the 1960s, but it appears that they have finally also reached an understanding of the cloud.