Types of Cloud Computing
Major corporations including Amazon, Google, IBM, Sun, Cisco, Dell, HP, Intel, Novell, and Oracle have invested in cloud computing and offer individuals and businesses a range of cloud-based solutions.
For a list of the top 150 players in cloud computing, see the Cloud Computing Journal website:
Perhaps the most famous use of cloud computing, which does not strike people as "cloud computing" at first glance is social networking Websites, including Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, and many, many others. The main idea of social networking is to find people you already know or people you would like to know and share your information with them. Of course, when you share your information with these people, you're also sharing it with the people who run the service.
While the primary purpose of social networking previously was connecting people, businesses can use social networking too. By creating a Facebook fan page, a business can connect with its customers, and at the same time, those customers will be promoting your business. Also, viral marketing tactics can be used in combination with social networks. There are public relations experts who specialize in social media marketing.
Some of the biggest cloud computing services are Web-based e-mail. As of January 2009, over 500 million people used Microsoft's Web-based e-mail, Hotmail or Windows Live Mail. Using a cloud computing e-mail solution allows the mechanics of hosting an e-mail server and maintaining it to be taken out of your hands. It also means that your e-mail is accessible from anywhere
Document/Spreadsheet/Other Hosting Services
As made famous by Google Docs, a number of services like Zoho Office exist on the Internet that allow you to keep and edit your documents online. By doing so, the documents will be accessible anywhere, and you can share the documents and collaborate on them. Multiple people can work in the same document simultaneously.
A new online project management tool, Onit, is for "anyone and everyone who manage projects – big, small, business, legal." For Robert Ambrogi’s preview, Legal Project Management in the Cloud, or access the link below to go directly to Onit’s homepage.
Yahoo!'s Flickr and Google's Picasa offer hosting for photographs that you want to share with friends, family, or the world. People can comment on the photographs, much like they can on Facebook, but these specialized photo hosting services offer some perks for the photography enthusiast.
Perhaps nothing has revolutionized entertainment more than YouTube, a video sharing site. It's not the only one, though. Other video sharing sites include Vimeo and MetaCafe. Users are permitted to upload their own video content, and the services take care of putting it into a form that can be easily viewed by users without downloading much, if any, special software. Stars are made on YouTube. (An excellent compilation of these stars were put together by the band Weezer in their video for "Pork and Beans," seen below in a YouTube clip.)
Even if you do use services to keep all your documents and photos, chances are you still have data on your personal computer. One of the biggest problems with personal computing has been the tendency to lose that data if your computer is stolen, destroyed, or the storage device damaged. This is where backup comes in. Sometimes, even backing up to media you have isn't good enough -- you need to store the data off-site for more complete protection. Services like JungleDisk, Carbonite, and Mozy allow you to automatically back up all your data to servers spread around the country or world for a suprisingly low price. Of course, your data is then susceptible to security breaches.
Similarly, services like Syncplicity and Dropbox (both offer free versions) make it easy to keep local copies of files on multiple computers synchronized while keeping a copy in the "cloud." Some of these services will even keep previous versions of files or deleted files in case you happen to delete or mess up an important file.
Banking and Financial Services
Consumers store personal financial information to cloud computing service providers. In addition, consumers store tax records using free or low cost online backup services.
In an effort to improve the nation’s health IT infrastructure, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) recently selected a cloud computing platform to manage the selection and implementation of Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems across the country.
Non-health care organizations as Google and Microsoft provide a means by which consumers can create an online personal health record (“PHR”). Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault allow the public to create, store, and access online personal health records on the search engine's website.
In October 2009, the U.S. government launched “Apps.gov”, a website providing cloud-based computing services for federal agencies. The decision was largely motivated by the desire to reap the cost savings.
Local Government: The Los Angeles City Council
In October 2009, the city council agreed to shift the city’s email system was shifted to Google’s Gmail cloud computer platform. The Los Angeles Council and Google agreed that the data stored for the city belongs to the city, and Google will notify the city of all requests for data and security breaches so the city can take actions it deems appropriate.
These are just some examples of cloud computing services. There are hundreds or thousands more. If you have a favorite cloud computing service that we missed, let us know.
Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Types of Cloud Computing Services, available at http://epic.org/privacy/cloudcomputing/ (last accessed Mar. 26, 2010).