We have been talking a lot about the Cloud in recent years. It is a new way to store and manage data and to dematerialize it. The most relevant examples that we can give of Cloud use are the countless online tools that we use every day and in which we store documents accessible via any computer or smartphone. Everything can be kept online, and this is possible thanks to the cloud and the advanced technology behind it.
What is Cloud Computing?
Your documents, applications, and other types of data, you can store on the hard drive of your computer or rather choose the Cloud. In the second case, it means that you are using storage computer resources accessible from the web.
Cloud reflects the fact that we often have the impression of placing our data in an intangible environment (different from the computer that we can touch) to find it there at any of our selected times, just by connecting through the internet.
If you’re using Gmail, Yahoo, or another similar webmail, you’re already using the cloud. And you may notice that your old emails and drafts are still available and right where they are, no matter what device you connect with. Google Drive and Dropbox are also cloud services capable of storing a very large amount of data that would be impossible to keep if you had to use your computer.
The tools in the Cloud are in fact very numerous and they all work on the same principle: the use of several shared and remote servers to store data and make them accessible to the Internet.
It has been a long time since the Cloud has been used by IT specialists or companies, but its use is becoming more general and has ensued an increasingly publicized craze. What everyone knows and uses tends to be talked about more. The Cloud is also becoming an economic reality because Internet users sometimes have to pay to subscribe to the Cloud service of their choice, although some may be totally or partially free.
The different cloud systems
There are different offers available to access the Cloud, that is to say, different ways to use the storage capacity that the principle allows:
- The SaaS: Also referred to as Software as a Service, which enables users and businesses to be able to access an application or software via a monthly or annual. This is the simplest method, but also the most used. It does not require any installation, but the accesses are done naturally by using an internet browser. You will then be able to fully use your new software for the duration of your subscription;
- The PaaS or Platform as a Service: This method allows you to have a computing environment that can help you manage the installation, configuration, and even the use of your applications. Here, you will be able to perform updates for example, unlike SaaS where you only have options for use and not maintenance. All this goes through web hosting which helps the platform to operate and the hosting of various applications;
- The IaaS or Infrastructure as a Service: Here, it is also subscribed to have a complete IT infrastructure, including servers, network, backup, and storage systems available in the provider’s data center. Thus, you have a Cloud service as if you had all the computer equipment necessary to use your own data center. No usage restrictions on your consumption since this virtual material belongs to you as long as you keep your subscription up to date.
Some structures or companies still prefer to have their IT system in-house for questions of confidentiality and data security, while others are quite confident about all (or part) dematerialization in the Cloud.
What is the use of the Cloud?
The primary utility of the Cloud is its flexibility and accessibility. You can access your data, applications, or servers from any workstation connected to the Internet, regardless of the screen size, the operating system, or the brand. The synchronization options reinforce this accessibility, to switch the grip from one device to another without the need to disconnect or move.
This saves a lot of time, an almost unlimited space, a power-sharing solution, but also money, when we consider how much all the equipment required for the storage of a large volume of documents or virtual machines would have cost.
And yet, we all know that current work and communication habits adapt very well to the use of the cloud, to a certain extent. This is also why USB keys are used a lot because it is often necessary to transfer data from one computer to another or to a smartphone, or to a tablet. It is thus possible while being at the office, to record any information in a SaaS software in the form of video, audio, or written document (Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, Spotify, or another software), to consult it later. in transport or at home.
It’s more or less affordable and adaptable costs, depending on the number of users, for example, make cloud services an option increasingly considered as an alternative to traditional and physical means of storage.
Cloud and online applications
We use the cloud almost every day by using online applications. They are very easy to use and exist in different fields. We have seen the example of Gmail and Yahoo, to name but a few, which are online applications or software on which most of us have opened one or more free accounts.
These applications are now democratized and there is little doubt that they are part of what made the current success of the Cloud.
There are several specificities that distinguish them: online applications adapt to all operating systems; they do not need to be installed on our computers, but just need a sufficient internet connection to function; they help with group and online work; they have a relative level of security (a big drawback).
Advantages and disadvantages of the cloud
If Cloud services are in demand as much by individuals as by companies, it is because the advantages they contain are interesting, to say the least. On the other hand, there are reservations with regard to this dematerialization model which does not allow the same control as that which is possible with hardware.
Among the advantages of using the cloud are:
- A reduction in cost, especially for structures that no longer need to acquire all the computer equipment that was once essential to start their activities. The initial investment costs are reduced, especially for startups;
- The possibility of unlimited bandwidth and storage ;
- Access to very high-quality services without paying prohibitive costs;
- The possibility of strengthening data security.
The downsides of cloud storage are nonetheless worth considering:
- The Internet is the engine of the Cloud, if a failure occurred, the entire activity of the structure would be disrupted;
- The structure remains technically dependent on its Cloud service provider;
- The computer system is no longer under the perfect control of the structure and the applications used may change at any time, in favour of other more efficient or more adapted to the service provider’s equipment;
- Confidentiality can no longer be guaranteed 100% if we consider possible cyber-attacks or technical failures;
- Questions also arise from a legal point of view as to the location of the data and their subject to the laws and regulations in force in the national territory where the servers are located (e.g. data placed in Amazon or Google Drive, with servers based in the United States are thus subject to the “Patriot act” with the possibility for the American government to consult this data at any time).
Is the cloud secure enough?
The convenience of the cloud is no longer in doubt, but what about security?
Even though online applications can be considered reliable, until proven guilty, hacks are a common occurrence, resulting in massive theft of data for obscure purposes.
It is therefore up to a cloud service provider to ensure that the security of its users’ data is reinforced so that hacker attacks always end in failure. However, we must admit that we cannot completely trust the online applications (Dropbox, Google Drive, Skydrive, etc.) that we use and in particular to keep our files safe.
What the experts recommend is to at least try to have strong authentication, which will not allow a hacker to enter an email or an online storage platform. Today, for example, there is what is known as 2-factor authentication (2FA) including the password and phone number. The simple fact of using a very strong password, difficult to guess with numbers and symbols, is undoubtedly already a useful precaution.
You should also not take the risk of placing some row data. We will take the example of bank identifiers or medical data; these are not things to be communicated remotely and on any platform.
Online applications, in themselves, are not always honest with users since they have confidentiality rules approved that stipulate the use of user data in order to improve their services, without falling into the details. You can therefore take care to read the conditions of use that we present to you or at least make a restriction on the type of documents that you share.
You always have the option of turning to online applications that you trust more because in the end, the cloud has become essential, if only for basic use.
Some Cloud solutions, especially recommended for companies, also allow the use of an encryption key for your accesses so that only you can consult your data.
The leading providers of free cloud storage
In general, online users are often looking for cloud services for free storage. These online applications are free, but with paid options when a certain level of storage is exceeded.
Some of these online storage tools include:
- Google Drive: the Google tool that you can access for free as soon as you have a Gmail account;
- Microsoft OneDrive;
- Apple iCloud;
- Amazon Cloud Drive;
- OpenDrive etc.
The cloud market is currently very developed and several tech giants have also taken to it by creating their own cloud service, with increased demand from users. Companies are also increasingly using the Cloud, taking advantage of low-cost plans and thus saving on their expenditure on IT resources. The Cloud is also very practical to facilitate the use of digital tools even if it sometimes arouses a certain suspicion. However, we have to believe that this computer system is well on its way to last and to develop further for years to come.