What is the cloud & other questions you thought it was too late to ask

cloud technology

The funniest tee shirt we’ve seen this year said “There is no Cloud. It’s just somebody else’s computer”.  

It’s slightly more complicated than that but it is a reminder that not everybody has a handle on the latest technical jargon and industry shorthand.

The same goes for terms like Big Data, Internet of Things and even familiar terms like 3G, 4G and 5G – what does the G stand for anyway? 

We present a quick guide to the most popular terms you might come across in computing and what they refer to… 

Cloud Computing

Clouds are ephemeral, floating and weightless, which is a good metaphor for data that doesn’t actually reside somewhere physical like a zip drive or a floppy disk.  

Most simply, the data is stored somewhere else, or split up and stored in lots of other different places and the network of servers that we refer to when we talk about the computing version of “the cloud” is them. Services and software that runs on the internet rather than locally from your computer hard drive are cloud-based and can be accessed through web browsers or mobile apps. Other cloud services include Google Drive, Apple iCloud, Dropbox, even Netflix!

The main advantage of the cloud is that you can access your information on any device that is connected to the Internet. You can edit a document on your officer computer, go home and then pick up exactly where you left off on your home computer or Smartphone. Colleagues can also work on identical documents at the same time and services such as Amazon’s Cloud Driver and others let you store huge amounts of data such as photos, videos and files entirely online so you don’t have to fill up your devices physical memory. 

This method of storage and access is cost effective because you don’t need a super powered device to access and run them. The Internet connection is key though because without it, or a good one, you cannot access it. 

Internet of Things

The title is slightly literal in that the Internet of Things (IoT) is literally that. Devices and technology that can connect to the Internet and talk to each other. For instance a smart Fridge than can tell you when you have ran out of milk or can scan food labels and let you know when something has reached it’s use-by date. 

Some of it may seem risible or science fiction but the large take-up of energy smart meters are an example of IoT in action as are home controllers such as Google Home or Amazon Echo that can interact with devices such as the Chromecast smartspeaker or Phillips Hue lights. You can ask them to turn lights on or off or play certain types of music in whatever room your speak is in. This is the IoT in action today. 

Big Data

Big data is exactly what it sounds like in one way. It refers to the size of the data sample that can be analysed – not just how big the figures are! 

The more information you get about a subject, the more information you can extract from it and learn. For instance, by analysing large numbers of medical records, doctors can help spot patterns to predict disease or develop medicines. Police can see trends and gather intelligence for incidents happening in various areas in one place. Geologists can now gather probe data to help predict earthquakes and tsunamis in advance to give people living in those areas far earlier warnings than they would previously have received thanks to big data. 

And the G in 3G, 4G and 5G data? It doesn’t refer to Gamma, the awesome voice, data and mobile services company – It refers to Generation – the higher the number, the more data and information it can handle.