The idea of cloud computing entails using a connection to the internet and central and remote servers to maintain data and applications. The advantage of cloud computing is that individuals and businesses can use applications without installation and access their personal files at any computer with internet access.
Whether you know it or not, if you check your email through a website like Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo or have ever bought a product from Amazon or E-Bay, you are participating in the phenomenon of cloud computing. At the time the internet was first made widely available to the public in the middle to late 1990s, software produced by a company like America Online, CompuServe or Prodigy needed to be installed in order for a person to become connected to the world wide web. Nowadays, all you need to check your email is an internet-ready computer with a suitable web browser because the server and email management software is all “on the cloud,” a poetic way of saying “on the web” and completely managed by the service provider, be it Microsoft, Google or Yahoo.
The basic analogy that drives cloud computing is, “If you need milk, why buy a cow?” True, if you were to buy a cow, you very probably would not actually have to buy milk. Then again, if you wanted the cow to provide quality milk, you would have to keep an eagle eye on its diet and choose the best quality food, which just might get expensive. Not to mention the amount of space you would actually need to ensure that this animal would be able to get the proper amount of exercise. As you can envision, buying and owning a cow would cost considerably more than simply going to the supermarket and peeling off a few bucks for a gallon of milk.
Although software is not as much of an imposition as a cow, it does take up space on your hard drive, and from time to time it needs to be updated. Over time and in the interest of making things easier for web users, many designers and engineers opted to set up servers (the metaphorical market) on the internet (the pasture), where the software (the cow) would be contained. This way, for a web user to avail him- or herself of any benefits to be found online (this would be the milk), all they would have to do is open up the web browser and navigate their way to the respective web site, instead of installing internet software. In other words, cloud computing is just like hitting up the supermarket for milk without all the hassle of owning a cow!