Cloud computing has had transformative impacts for technological data storage and further enhances the interconnected, online nature of the current digital age. This innovative new system has evolved over time, largely assisting information management and storage, but also communication and connectedness globally. However, whilst cloud computing has significant benefits politically, economically and socially, it also causes us to raise questions regarding the privacy and security of our information.
What is cloud computing?
The cloud is a metaphor for a connected data centre, whereby cloud computing refers to a new computing technology and cloud operating system that stores data and server resources through a centralised management system (Yang, Yang & Lin, 2014). This means that applications and software on physical systems and machines can now be provided by online services which can be accessed anywhere via the Internet. It is a service that can be accessible whenever and wherever is required and can be used for “computing power, infrastructure, applications, business processes and personal collaboration” (Skiba, 2011, p.266). The cloud focuses on the concept of having shared services and resources, converged infrastructure and virtualisation of systems (Suiciu, Halunga, Apostu, Vulpe & Todoram, 2013).
There are three main types of Cloud services;
- Public Cloud: resources maintained and operated by a third-party cloud service provider and provided over the Internet to anyone E.g. Microsoft Azure
- Private Cloud: resources used exclusively by one business or organisation and maintained on a private network, focusing on the one organisation
- Hybrid Cloud: combine on-premises infrastructure, or private clouds, with public clouds to gain advantages of both
(Microsoft Azure, 2019).
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJncFirhjPg, Cloud Computing Explained, 2008, Standard YouTube Licence.)
There are three models of service that cloud computing provides:
|Software as a Service (SaaS)||This model focuses on providing different software applications over the Internet through networks.|
|Platform as a Service (PaaS)||This model focuses on development, whereby it allows consumers to develop and test cloud applications and services.|
|Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)||This model provides computing architecture and infrastructure resources including data storage, services and networking to be migrated and shared from hardware and physical resources to the online cloud.|
(Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgujaIzkwrE, The Three Ways to Cloud Compute, 2010, Standard YouTube Licence.)
How did cloud computing develop?
The concept and terminology of cloud computing has been utilised for decades, whereby it was first mentioned in a Compaq computing document, a company that focused on developing and selling computers and services. However, the term was popularised much later, in 2006, when Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, introduced the idea of cloud computing and its revolutionary future at an industry conference (Tarhini, Masa’deh, Al-Badi, Almajali & Alrabayaah, 2017). The Cloud concept was further enhanced by the release of Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud service in 2006.
How has it changed information management and storage?
Cloud computing has been a major part of the historical evolution of information management and storage. Previously, before cloud computing, information was centralised onto mainframe computers that companies would share, and then the industry then moved on to distributed networking, where each company looked after its own network and data. However, with cloud computing, companies have moved back to centralised storage, but rather than having data stored on mainframe computers, it’s now stored on multiple computers serving as a public cloud.
How has it changed communications media?
The cloud has had innovative impacts on communications media. The cloud has impacted the development and evolution of communication technologies significantly, as, prior to public cloud, the major communications methods included faxes, telegrams, phone calls and mail. However, cloud computing has led to the introduction of new communication services, platforms and applications including Skype, Google Drive, Slack, Messenger, VOIP (cloud hosted telephone system), SharePoint, OneDrive, iCloud and more. Cloud services significantly improve communication and collaboration, for example, Google Documents allows multiple users to edit the same documents and folders in real time over the internet from any location. Cloud computing also helps make previously existing communications services become more effective, for example, with the cloud, emails can be stored with “increased efficiency and enhanced maintenance and archiving capabilities” (Service Nation, 2018).
Who owns and controls the Cloud?
The main cloud computing companies include Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud, Google Cloud, Oracle Cloud and Alibaba.
Google App Engine is a public cloud service that provides website hosting on Google’s servers, whereby Google accounts making switching applications easy and accessible.
Amazon Web Services is a public cloud service that provides, data storage, rental of virtual servers, computing power, and services such as their Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Arutyunov, 2012).
Who benefits from cloud computing and who doesn’t?
Cloud computing has led to significantly transformative impacts within society, in political, economic, social and cultural impacts, however it also raises some potential risks and limitations.
The political benefits of cloud computing are significant but some political uses of the cloud have caused controversy from the public. Almost half of government organisations have adopted and actively use cloud services, with the main drivers including the desire to lower costs, centralise data for easier access and to improve efficiency of services (Meulen, 2018).
However, the controversy about having government organisations involved with the Cloud, include the government using the cloud to examine personal information about people, such as the legal public release of data in USA, or data breach scandals such as the Cambridge Analytica election Facebook scandal (Hern, 2018). In Australian, Internet service providers and telephony providers are required to keep user data for 7 years and of the government’s request, must supply user details, which leads to questions regarding the security of our privacy and trustworthiness of the government.
Economically, cloud computing has major advantages, especially for businesses and organisations. The new benefits and enhancements for companies include “reduced hardware cost, improved performance of computers and service, reduced maintenance issues, low software cost and unlimited storage capacity” (Tarhini et al., 2017). One of the largest advantages cloud computing provides, includes extensive control and flexibility of software environment, including operating system, so companies can design cloud infrastructure suitable to their needs. A study by IDG (2015) on Cloud communications and collaboration found that almost half of small to medium businesses currently use cloud based services for collaboration, and 66% plan to upgrade in the next three years. These companies plan to use these communication tools to improve employee interactions and productivity, and ultimately improve the business economy (Grisamore, 2016).
Disadvantages economically for businesses and people can include much slower data transfer, due to information storage and communication via the internet. Slow internet can also have major impacts on workplace productivity as most cloud programs require a good internet connection and high bandwidth (Arutyunov, 2012). The large costs for equipment and the initial migration to the cloud can be another disadvantage, especially to small companies without the financial resources. Potential risks of data leakage or data loss can have drastic effects on the brand, business or trust of an organisation or company. As cloud computing is a centralised data storage shared between organisations, this leads to an increased risk of data misuse. The protection of private data is one of the major issues within cloud computing, so it is imperative for organisations to keep data secure during storage, transit or process, as well as utilising “authentication, authorisation and access control” measures for information stored in the cloud (Kaur & Kaur, 2018, p.268).
With cloud based services rapidly increasing globally, often companies who don’t adapt fast enough are suffering economically as a consequence. For example, MYOB accounting was previously the top accounting platform in Australia, however they did not recognise the benefits of migrating to a cloud based service. As a result, in 2017, cloud-based accounting platform, Xero has overtaken MYOB in market share and now dominates the accounting market in Australia and New Zealand (Tadros & Redrup, 2018).
Furthermore, our society in general has significantly benefitted from innovative cloud computing, with the next generation of people growing up in a digitalised, interconnected culture with the Public Cloud, and subsequently possessing a large understanding and familiarity of its features. This has allowed many people the confidence to start Cloud related businesses, or migrate their data and information storage to Cloud based systems. It also has largely improved social communication and collaboration through online cloud services that provide “enterprise file sharing, high-definition video conferencing and streaming; and mobile collaboration hardware, software and apps” (Grisamore, 2016), as well as social media applications such as Facebook
However, disadvantages within society include the dependence on a permanent internet connection, so people without this will be severely disadvantaged and unable to use these cloud-based services and features. Cloud computing can also be unreliable when there is a poor internet connection and some Cloud programs may also run more slowly than on a local computer. The major societal issue related to Cloud services, are the privacy and security risks, as it is impossible to ensure “absolute confidentiality of data” on the as highly skilled hackers or people from within businesses can commit crimes or cause data breaches (Arutyunov, 2012).
How does the cloud impact me?
Cloud computing has major impacts on my everyday life, whether it be through communication on Facebook messenger or photo sharing with relatives on Cluster. As a University student, I use the Cloud every day to store my work on Dropbox or OneNote, constantly working on group assignments on Google Drive, or having video study calls with friends on Skype.
Evidently, cloud computing is a revolutionary innovative new technology that has transformed the way people and businesses store data and communicate, and has major advantages and benefits for governments, the economy and society, especially business, but also has various risks and limitations regarding security and dependence on the Internet.
So, just how much does the cloud impact you?
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