What Does the “Cloud” Actually Mean?
I was having coffee with a friend the other day and attempted to explain what SkyCiv really does. As we were talking, it became apparent that the word “cloud” can actually be quite confusing. Despite its prevalence, there are many incorrect assumptions and misinformation spread about cloud-based computing. Let's take a step back and really understand the concept of the "cloud.”
What is the Cloud?
Cloud Computing is simply the ability to store and access your files and programs over the Internet. The cloud is the location where these files and programs are stored; it essentially refers to the Internet. Yahoo Search, Gmail, eBay, Online Banking, QuickBooks, and DropBox are all examples of cloud based services: you connect to them directly via the Internet. For those who are more visual, here's a great infographic from Microsoft:
As this is still very conceptual, let's use a real life example. At SkyCiv, our server (essentially our "cloud") is a room of super computers in Buffalo, New York. These computers host the software, the SkyCiv website and all of our users' files. To connect to the software, simply log in from our website. This connects you to the SkyCiv Cloud so that you can access the information from your location.
Ok, But Physically, What is the Cloud?
As mentioned above, the cloud is essentially a cluster of powerful computers (or "servers"); Google has their own, Yahoo has their own and thus, SkyCiv has their own. This is where the software and files are stored:
Of course, you could download all your information from these servers onto your local computer. But these super computers are much faster, reliable and powerful than our desktop computers, allowing them to store more files and make faster calculations. These servers also have daily back up procedures to ensure the safety of files.
Before the Cloud, What was the Traditional Way?
Let's look at another simple example: emails. You can download and install a program (like Microsoft Outlook) to your computer and store all of your emails on your local hard drive. In this method, the only way to access the emails is via your one specific computer. Alternatively, a service like Gmail stores the program and all your emails on their cloud. This means that, no matter what device you're on, you can still access the software and emails via the Internet. Although there are exceptions to this model (programs like WebMail), it remains a relatable and accessible example that demonstrates the cloud's capabilties.
I hope this clears up any confusion you had about the cloud! If you work for a Structural Engineering firm and are curious about how the cloud could apply to your company, or just interested in learning more, please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or even try our cloud software - it's free!
CEO and Co-Founder of SkyCiv
BEng (Civil), BCom