Cloud computing has been the topic of much debate in the technological world over the past few months, particularly with the announcement of the Apple iCloud service’s release to the general public in the fall.
The iCloud now has a design that makes it available to a wide range of consumers for personal use, a substantial development in technology compared to its initial form. Originally, “cloud” referred to numerous computers that were linked together, allowing them to perform operations much faster than a single computer could on its own. These interconnected computers essentially acted as a giant number-cruncher. When processing information, the system could use whichever computer was most readily available, making complicated processes much speedier. The term “cloud” thus came about, because it is essentially a web of connected computers that can change in size or location, similar to clouds in the sky.
In previous years, cloud services were primarily used in the business sector, utilized by corporations to perform large amounts of calculation.
The modern cloud is different. For instance, the iCloud is a personalized experience aimed at technology-savvy consumers in an age where individuals increasingly own multiple technological devices. Apple seeks simplicity, making these devices sync automatically and thus providing a service that requires minimal effort on the part of the consumer and no additional technological literacy.
At the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, held earlier this month, Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple, explained why cloud-based computing has become more and more necessary over time.
“Devices have changed. They now all have music, they now all have photos, they now all have video. And so, if I acquire a song — I buy it right on my iPhone — I want to get that to my other devices, right? I pick up my iPad and it doesn’t have that song on it,” said Jobs. “So I have to sync my iPhone to my Mac, then I have to sync my other devices to the Mac to get that song, but then they’ve deposited some photos on the Mac, so I have to sync the iPhone again with the Mac to get those photos. And keeping these devices in sync is driving us crazy!”
Saeed Mahani, a UCSB alumna and incoming computer science graduate student, says that, so far, Apple has come up with the best personal cloud service.
“iCloud is top notch in terms of personal cloud usage. For instance, the Amazon music service requires you to first upload your songs on a website, and then you have to access that website and you stream your music through the website. It is an example of how the cloud was previously: a concept that was supposed to be convenient but, in the end, wasn’t very convenient at all,” said Mahani. “iCloud, it’s a combination of intelligently uploading your information to a database and then automatically syncing that information to all your devices. There is no streaming of music. The music is actually there, on the device.”
Mahani said that if personal cloud computing beyond Apple’s continues to develop following a similar model of simplicity, it could easily change the way people interact with their technological devices.
“Because iCloud stores things, there will be space saved on hard drives. If other cloud services develop in the fashion that the Apple cloud service has, people will be able to access all of their work, music and photos from anywhere, on any of their devices, without having to manually sync everything all of the time. The syncing becomes simple. There is no plugging in of wires or devices to the computer, no going through and making sure the things you want are there on all of your devices — it just does it for you,” said Mahani. “Essentially, it is almost like having your computer and all the information on it wherever you go.”
In regards to security concerns, such as the hacking and stealing of private documents, photos or information from the cloud, Mahani says that while Apple and other companies probably follow top-of-the-line security measures, there is still a minimal security risk associated with the technology.
“Every single computer in the world can be hacked into, and hackers can take or wipe everything if they want to. I am sure that with all this storage of so much private information, Apple and other large tech companies will have the best security measures possible in place. Ultimately, though, you can choose what you set up to share and you can change the settings if you like. There is a risk in everything you do on the computer or Internet — every time you log into Facebook, Twitter or any place where you are giving out information,” Mahani said.