What is ‘the cloud’?
Posted: 10th Nov 2011
The chances are you’ve probably heard your techie friends talking about “the cloud” lately, and as you may have guessed it’s nothing to do with skies and Wordsworthian rhyme.
Essentially ‘the cloud’, also known as cloud computing, means running programs and services on web servers rather than on your own computer. The cloud is the reason that an iPhone 4S can do advanced voice recognition with Siri – there’s not enough processing power on the handset to turn sound waves into text, but there is on Apple’s servers.
You speak into your phone, the recording is uploaded to Apple and sophisticated and powerful computers get to work translating what you’ve said there.
The cloud also covers simpler services, though. With Dropbox, you can use a piece of cloud-based storage space to act like a hard drive in Windows. Any computer that you grant access to your Dropbox account – and we include tablets and phones here – can see its contents. It’s like a giant USB memory stick in the sky.
These two properties – the ability to have access-anywhere storage and offload processing power to a server – are the key to understanding what the cloud is. And there are some fantastic services that use this technology.
Upload notes, lists, photographs, websites and more that you can then access from any device or share with friends and family members. A great example is the monthly shop. You sit at home creating a list of things that you must remember, you add this into Evernote on your laptop. When you go to the shops, open the application on your smartphone, and your shopping list is there for you to enjoy.
Google Voice Search
Like Apple’s Siri except that it’s available for any phone, simply tell Google Voice Search what you’re looking for (£50 in dollars, or the capital of Uzbekistan) and it’ll seek out the information for you.
The best known music streaming service, for a single monthly fee you can play anything you like from Spotify’s library of several million songs.
Apple’s new iCloud service syncs all your music, documents and photographs over multiple devices, allowing you to stream files from Apple’s servers or download them locally.