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The Future of the Cloud: Why Software Will Become Extinct

This is a guest post by Frank Anderson. Imagine a computing world without files, without external hard drives, without disks or downloads or data to store. It’s a concept called cloud computing, it’s in its early stages, and it will fundamentally change the way we deal with hardware, software and the Internet.

As things stand, most computers still run software and operating systems that were pre-installed, downloaded from a Web site, or installed at home from a disk. Data files created by that software are stored on hard drives and backed up on external storage drives or online storage sites. With cloud computing, all these functions are moved to the Internet.

Cloud computing is a service that delivers computing elements on the model of an electric utility. Services such as software and file storage are delivered online. The programs and data are kept on servers.

An example: Right now, if you wanted to write a Word document, you would open Word
from your hard drive, create a file, and save it on your hard drive when finished. With cloud computing, you would open Word through a Web browser, create a file, and save it to a distant server when finished. If you wanted to open it again later, you would use Word via the Web.

Rather than buying software and an operating system and an external drive, you would pay a nominal fee for access to the services of a cloud provider, which would deliver your computing services.

This not only erases the hassles of installing and removing software, and of managing files. It also makes it possible to access your personal files and software from almost anywhere,anytime. In addition, it reduces the costs of computing and increases its efficiency; currently, most computer networks use only a small portion of their capacity.

The advent of the cloud also raises important security concerns. The presence of personal files on distant servers opens the possibility of unauthorized access, hacking, data destruction,and privacy intrusions by third parties or the government. These concerns have slowed the introduction of the cloud into personal computing, as cloud providers have scrambled to create a new model of online security that can handle the new requirements of data storage and personal information management.

The cloud comes in several different types. It’s possible to establish private clouds, centered on private servers maintained either by the users or by third parties. Public clouds, the traditional model, provide computing services from third-party providers via the Internet. Community clouds are private clouds that share infrastructure between organizations.

The idea of cloud computing dates back at least as far as the 1960s, when early computing visionaries described a future where computers would operate on a utility model. The term “cloud” comes from the telecommunications industry, which used a cloud drawing to illustrate aspects of the telephone industry in the 1990s. Amazon launched Amazon Web Service, a major step forward in cloud computing, in 2006. This has been followed by a handful of other cloud introductions.

Frank Anderson is a software and technology specialist. His primary area of expertise is .net web hosting and other similar hosting solutions.

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