“Cloud” is a metaphor for the internet. “Cloud computing” is a phrase that is being used today to describe the act of storing, accessing, and sharing data, applications, and computing power in cyberspace. The concepts of storing data in remote locations or renting the use of tools only when you need them are not new, but the positives and negatives of cloud computing present users with unprecedented opportunities and challenges.
A September 2008 Pew Internet Data Memo reported that 69% of Americans had either stored data online or used web-based software applications at least once. Using a Hotmail or Gmail account for email, storing Firefox or Google browser bookmarks online, sharing friendships in cyberspace on social networks like Facebook, maintaining a blog on WordPress, and storing personal videos and photos on YouTube and Flickr are just some of the ways many people are already “working in the cloud” every day.
Cloud architectures can allow people to easily and conveniently take advantage of larger amounts of storage and computing power; they also offer easy access to centrally located information reachable through any compatible device a user wishes to implement; they can provide a back-up to locally stored data; they allow people to easily share their data with others.
They also open up a wide variety of reliability, interoperability, privacy, and security concerns, as people put their information under the control of strangers in remote location anytime they trust in “the cloud.” For instance, the corporate leaders at Facebook come under fire regularly for changing privacy settings again and again after signing up users who expected to participate under a different and more consumer-centered set of rules.