What, exactly, is the cloud?

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What is cloudJust what is cloud computing, and why should anyone care?

As PC Mag defines it, cloud computing is the access of online material from a proverbial “cloud” of information rather than data retrieval from hard drives or other physical memory, such as flash drives or discs.

Nevertheless, the cloud is merely a concept. It’s important to remember that information accessed through the cloud is still stored on a physical server that is susceptible to moisture, hacking, and even overheating, just like a personal hard drive. The only difference therein is that cloud servers are usually maintained and managed by companies and professionals at remote and secure locations, colloquially referred to as “server farms.”

At the risk of oversimplifying its impact, cloud computing effects everyone in the world, every day, and at all times. Its importance stems not only from the security and convenience it provides for companies with highly valuable data, but also from the personal services it makes increasingly simpler for normal people. Email access, video streaming, messaging, even online office software that updates in real time as a team simultaneously works on it. It’s all technically a part of what we consider the cloud.

Of course, while the business-to-business, security based services many companies such as IBM offer to large-scale clients may still be what first comes to mind when considering cloud computing, it’s not the final frontier. Cloud computing as a whole is more about an ease of access to information not previously possible in the era of physical drivers. There’s still a long way to go before we see cloud computing integrated completely  into society. However, it’s a bit misleading to assert that the cloud is the wave of the future. Frankly, the cloud is what’s happening in the tech right now.

An entire industry has risen, seemingly overnight, to cater to the data-driven needs of corporations and consumers alike. It’s something to sit up and take note of.

IBM is a great example of a company that is promoting cloud-based services on a wide scale. Hosting and cloud-based services are at the forefront of the company’s offerings and the way it communicates about its services shows a distinct strategy.

IBM does not claim to be the biggest or cheapest provider of cloud based services — the McDonald’s of cloud computing if you will — where each consumer is offered the same array of cheap options. To the contrary, IBM is more focused on providing unique solutions and diverse product lines. This specific orientation in the marketplace is what gives IBM a competitive advantage in cloud computing. More importantly, it’s what gives the company sustained success in web-based services.

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