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Cloud computing is the process of running applications over the Internet rather than from you own computer.
Instead of buying software, installing it on your computer, upgrading it periodically and storing all your data on your hard drive, with cloud computing you use software applications online, as a service. All you need is your computing device and an Internet connection.
Some of the most common uses for cloud computing include webmail services, cloud storage, and cloud-based office applications like Google Docs. Other popular cloud services include WordPress, online development environments, and analytics software.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to install anything on my computer to use cloud computing?
In most cases, all you need to use a cloud computing service is a web browser and an Internet connection. Everything else is handled on the server. However, some programs may allow more integration with your computer. For instance, most cloud storage services allow you to install software on your computer which automatically checks for updates to files and syncs them with the cloud. The cloud then reviews the files on all of your other devices to make sure everything is up-to-date.
If the program is run in the cloud, what does my computer do?
Depending on the type of cloud computing software you are accessing, your computer may be doing a whole lot or a whole little. Full-on cloud computing, where the entire application is run from a server or servers on the Internet are the easiest for your computer. Since everything is being managed online, the only thing your computer has to do is maintain the Internet connection, download the video stream from the remote server, and send input commands from you keyboard or mouse. Other cloud computing services uses a hybrid approach, where your computer shares the processing responsibility with the cloud server. Companies often utilize a hybrid approach to maintain more sensitive applications on-site, while using a cloud-based service to handle resource-intensive applications, such as development environments. They may also utilize cloud services for managing the software, while housing the private data used by the software internally.
Is cloud computing just for programs, or can your entire system run from the Internet?
Cloud computing is most commonly used at the program level, wherein a specific application is hosted online, such as Google Docs. Users log in to a website and utilize that single application over the Internet. However, it is possible to run an entire operating systems through cloud computing. Companies such as ZeroPC and SilveOS provide a complete desktop experience from your web browser. Using solutions like these, even old or slow computers can easily handle modern software. The server handles all of the processing, while your computer acts as the display.
Many companies have taken to using cloud computing to host employee workstations in the cloud. By doing so, they only need to provide low-cost hardware at each desk and can manage every desktop from a single location.