Mar 3, 2013

How Cloud Computing Will Affect You

How Will Cloud Computing Affect YouWhen technology research company Gartner Inc. identified the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2013, they said that personal clouds “will gradually replace the PC,” becoming the “glue that connects the web of devices [consumers] choose to use.” When considering how much of our lives are managed with digital devices, their prediction indicates a huge impact on our daily activities.

So, what exactly is cloud computing? How will advances in this technology benefit your life, and what security threats will this web of networks create? 

Personal Clouds

Whether you know it or not, you have probably been using cloud computing for some time now. Web-based email services and most smartphone apps are cloud networks. This means that the software and/or storage for your account do not exist on your personal computer or smartphone, but on the service organisation's server.

Advantages of Personal Clouds

In the past, file sharing was limited to email attachments. Because of attachment size limits for the sender or receiver, large attachments were often rejected. You were left with few options which included burning a CD to distribute, loading the files on a USB drive to mail in an envelope, or buying web-hosting space where you could share files. These time-consuming activities have been streamlined by the introduction of cloud networks.

There are several free and free-to-try cloud apps. These allow you to not only store your files, but access and share them with others from multiple devices. For example, you can create a project on your desktop computer at home, save it as a PDF and upload it to a cloud network. Then, you can view the same PDF file from your smartphone, work laptop or a friend’s web-enabled device. Because we work with such a variety of digital devices throughout any given day, it only makes sense that we would want to be able to access, share or edit that PDF at any given time or place. This eliminates the need to burn CDs or save to USB drives.

Aside from the convenience of file sharing, there are many other advantages to this system for both individuals and businesses:

  • Users have decreased hardware costs because the cloud service stores all your information on a remote computer. You no longer need to buy the fastest computer with the most memory.
  • Clouds allow corporations to share programs with all employees on a network without having to buy additional software or software licenses.
  • Clouds reduce the amount of physical space needed by corporations who store a lot of digital information.
  • As technology advances, we will be replacing and upgrading devices all the time. Our personal clouds will help us transcend these changes.
  • Having information stored on clouds reduces the risk of losing all your digital information in the case of a fire or burglary in your home or office.

Security Risks

Naturally, sharing this much information online can lead to some security risks. However, because cloud network services depend highly on their reputations, they generally make great efforts to secure their clients’ information. On the other hand, because your accounts can be accessed from virtually anywhere, your privacy is also at risk. Most of these threats can be lessened with standard internet security practices.

  • Use strong passwords and change them often. Do not share passwords with other people.
  • Corporations should use authorization formats which allow users to see only the data that pertains to their job.
  • Set up individual accounts for each member of the family, rather than sharing your username and password with your children.
  • Use different combinations of emails, usernames and passwords for each cloud account.
  • Use two-factor authentication which includes receiving a text message or email in order to accept changes made to an account.
  • Choose a security question and answer that is not easily researched. Some hackers are very determined to access your accounts.
  • Use different email addresses as the contact point for password recovery. If one gets compromised, it will still be difficult for other accounts to be accessed.
With so many advantages, cloud computing appears viable and may replace the hard drives on our computers. As these cloud networks become the center of our digital lives, it is ever more important to take these safety measures to protect your personal information. Enjoy the advantages of this technology without becoming victim to its risks.