Features & Uses of the Cloud

Cloud storage and computing are two buzzwords you’ll hear frequently. This is because they offer services that are very efficient and reliable for both individuals and businesses. Due to this they are now heavily used in both our personal and professional lives.

This lesson we’ll learn about:

  1. Features and uses of cloud storage
  2. Features and uses of cloud computing

Media Attachments: Presentation Video

1. Features & Uses of Cloud Storage

Features & Uses of Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is where data is stored on remote servers and is accessed via the Internet. Services like OneDrive or Dropbox are common examples of this.

There are a lot of unique features to cloud storage that makes it a more viable option for businesses trying to upgrade their storage than using traditional systems of storage (like hard drives).

Setting & Sharing of Access Rights

Files stored on cloud storage can have their access rights altered so that the files can be shared between multiple users. This way the files can be accessed by a team of individuals while working in completely different locations, even in different countries.

An example of this in action can be clearly seen in Google Drive, which prominently displays its share button for every file you have stored. Furthermore, it lets you create folders that multiple users can upload and edit files within and even let those multiple users edit a single document all at the same time.

Synchronisation of Cloud & Individual Devices

Whenever you make changes to a file while using a service like Google Drive or OneDrive, it can be configured to automatically save and synchronise your changes directly with the main server where your files are stored.

This means that if you were to make changes on one device and immediately check another, you would see your files up-to-date, provided both were connected to the Internet.

Availability

Cloud servers are always online so if you have a stable Internet connection, you will be able to connect to one and manage your own files. Even if there are outages, there are likely to be several backup servers from which the service can operate off, meaning it is truly online 24/7.

This is extremely useful, as it means you will always have access to your files, and not just on your own computer, but any computer that has an internet connection. You can just log in to your cloud account and access all of your files.

Scalability

Cloud service providers like Google and Microsoft ordinarily give you a certain amount of “free space”, so if you do happen to run out of space you can always buy more. For example, for £10/month you can get 3 terabytes of storage space in Dropbox.

Cloud storage is highly scalable due to a lack of physical constraints (like hard drives). If you need to get space, you can simply change your subscription to one that is more appropriate. This will prevent bottlenecks if the company suddenly grows exponentially, and means you don’t need to spend large sums of money on excessive storage, just in case your business grows.

Further Thought

Are there any cloud storage service providers that you use that are different from those mentioned in the section above? If not, try and find out some examples of service providers that you may be able to use yourself.

2. Features & Uses of Cloud Computing

Features & Uses of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing includes cloud storage as part of it is storing data on remote servers accessed via the Internet. However, cloud computing is more than just this.

In fact, when we talk about cloud computing what we are usually referring to is accessing software through a browser that is actually running on remote servers, rather than your own computer. Google Docs is an example of this.

Online Applications

Google and Microsoft both offer the ability to access applications through your browser. Commonly this is used for Office productivity software, but there are many other examples though, such as webmail clients (e.g. Gmail & Outlook.com) as well as cloud-based music, photo editing & appointments calendar.

These online applications are accessed through a browser over the internet which means that we can use our software on any computer that has an internet connection. This is really helpful in the modern world where we often have several different devices, as we needn’t buy software for every device.

Consistency of Version Between Users

A great benefit of using cloud computing software in a business is to ensure that all users are running the same version of that software. When subscribed to cloud computing the provider will keep your software up-to-date and all users will be accessing the exact same version. This means all users have the same features.

This also helps to ensure all users are using the same file types, by having consistent versions of the software. This is further helped due to working on shared instances of a file.

Single Shared Instance of a File

A single file can be shared to many people all at once for them to view or modify. This viewing can be done simultaneously with somebody editing the file, with that change appearing on other users screens in real-time. This way you do not need to worry about people loading up a file at the same time and overwriting each other’s changes, as you can see the changes as they’re happening.

You can also allow several users to edit the file all at once, with all their changes being registered as they go. This means that you can work together collaboratively on a file, while on different computers, even in different countries.

Collaboration Tools/Features

Many cloud computing services have excellent features built-in to allow users to work collaboratively. For example, Google Slides allows multiple users to edit a single presentation at the same time. This means two co-workers could work on a presentation together while in different countries.

Some additional tools include those that track changes or add comments. This allows you to see what changes somebody has made to a file while you’ve not been accessing it, allowing you to catch up and see what they’ve done and edit any of the changes they’ve made (or indeed reject and remove those changes).

Further Thought

Try and find some cloud solutions for big companies and see what kinds of collaboration tools and/or features they have available.

Lesson Summary

So to summarise what we’ve learnt in this lesson:

  • Cloud storage allows us to store data on remote servers that we access over the internet.
  • Common features of this include:
    • Setting & sharing access rights so you can make files accessible to multiple users, such as by creating a link to a file or whole folder.
    • Synchronisation of files between devices so that any changes you make are updated to the cloud in real-time so they’ll appear on your other devices.
    • Cloud servers are always online for whenever you need them, even outages won’t affect your access due to backup servers. This way you can access your files anywhere you are, on any device, as long as there is an internet connection.
    • It’s very easy to upscale or downscale cloud storage according to your business needs by simply increasing your subscription.
  • Cloud computing encompasses cloud storage but also includes cloud-based software that runs on external servers which we access through our web browser.
  • Common features include:
    • Online applications that we can access through our browser on whatever device we’re using, as long as it has an internet connection.
    • Users will work on consistent software versions and file types as the cloud computing provider will update to the latest version for all users.
    • Users can work on a single shared instance of a file so that you don’t have an issue where multiple users open the file and edit it, overwriting each other’s changes.
    • Collaborative working tools such as real-time working on the same file between multiple users, as well as tracking changes and commenting so employees can work together even when in different countries.