What does the term ‘Cloud’ mean, is it the same as Web 2.0?
The term ‘cloud’ as in ‘cloud computing’ or ‘computing in the cloud’ has become a popular new name for the internet itself. The internet is represented in many diagrams and presentations as a picture of a cloud. Both the internet (covering the world) and an intranet (inside a private network) can be thought of as clouds. Many people assume that you can only use a web browser to access internet or intranet services, this is not the case. Cloud services as they are called can be accessed through a traditional web browser interface and both mobile and desktop applications.
Another aspect to cloud computing is the term ‘SaaS’ or Software as a Service. This works together with virtualisation technologies allowing virtual servers, applications and even full operating systems to run in the cloud. These ‘virtual machines’ or ‘virtual applications’ can then be accessed using a web browser or remote desktop software.
Why would you want to run servers or applications in the cloud?
The main reason is that it is cheaper since you don’t have to buy the server hardware and infrastructure, and it allows you to react faster to demand as new virtual servers can be activated almost as easily as copying a file.
Examples of cloud services you might know and use.
- Google Docs is a well known cloud service, allowing you to work on office files from any computer using a web browser.
- Our Microsoft exchange service is an intranet based cloud service, which also offers internet based web access to PIM data and mobile phone syncing.
- Google Maps cloud service is accessible through the web or mobile phones and using the Google Earth application for PC, Mac, Linux and iPhone.
Top 10 cloud services. (all of these services are free, some charge for extra premium features, they also work on any computer with some offering enhanced functions for Mac, PC, and iPhone)
- Zenbe lists – Allows you to store lists that can be shared with others and be able to access them from the web and mobile phones.
- Screenr – This is an astounding service which allows quick screencasts to be made and published to your twitter feed. I used this service to create the Google Earth flyby animation of Exeter University in 3D posted in our twitter feed.
- Evernote – One of the most accomplished cloud services. Think of evernote as ‘your external brain’, allowing you to take detailed notes whilst using any computer or mobile. It’s killer feature is its ability to recognise the text within photos combined with extensive search facilities. Their mobile applications are highly effective and easy to use. Check out the Jack and Jill video.
- Google docs – Probably the most famous set of cloud services, covering a virtual office, blog reader, and image management. Google’s extensive offerings are far too numerous to mention here, many of its services are specifically adapted to work with mobile web browsers such as safari on the iPhone and the webkit based Android browser.
- Photoshop – Apart from being an excellent service, this shows just how powerful web applications have become. There is a free iPhone application that links with Photoshop.com and integrates with flickr, facebook, and twitter.
- Google Earth / Maps – Google’s mapping services work on every computer and mobile internet device known to man. There is even a version of Google Earth for the iPhone!
- YouTube – Everyone knows YouTube! A cloud based video service now supporting HD. Many mobile phones have YouTube applications or can directly access a mobile version of its website.
- XMarks – Imagine using many computers, both physical and virtual in many locations. Would you like your bookmarks to be the same on each computer? What about adding a bookmark at work and finding it added to your computer and mobile phone the next time you go to use them. This is what XMarks does, it keeps all your web browsers in sync with each other. An invaluable cloud service.
- Everytrail – This is a web service that works in combination with mobile phone apps for iPhone, WinMo, Android & Blackberry to map your trip via GPS and allow you to add geolocation based story’s and photos. These can be posted to facebook and twitter, then shared with your friends so that they can use their mobile devices to follow your trails.
- WordPress – WordPress is a rich, easy to use blogging platform. You are reading a wordpress blog now! We are using our own WordPress server, however wordpress.org will host your blog.
- Audioboo – This service allows you to record geotagged audio and post it to twitter and facebook using your mobile phone.
- Microsoft Live Mesh – This service has the potential to be extremely useful for all computer users. It offers synchronisation of data across different computers with the ability to remote control them too. Offering an incredible 25gb of free storage!