For many people, "the cloud" is a nebulous term, but it simply refers to software and services that operate on the Internet instead of directly on a computer. Dropbox, Netflix, Flickr, Google Drive, and Microsoft Office 365 (a/k/a Outlook) are all cloud services-- they do not need to be installed on a computer.
According to a report by Gartner, one third of digital data will be in the cloud by 2016. Cloud computing is an attractive option for many entrepreneurs, businesses, and governments in developing countries that seek to service large populations but which require an alternative to heavy ICT infrastructure. Moreover, as mobile apps and PC software are increasingly tied to the cloud, its adoption is likely to increase.
A recent analysis from the World Trade Organization states the cloud will have a huge impact on global trade by catalyzing greater competition to produce value-added products of much higher quality, making the knowledge economy a reality, empowering small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to stimulate job creation faster and reduce barriers to new products and business models, and by helping governments expand scale in their ability to deliver core services more economically and effectively to citizens in healthcare, telecommunications, education, financial access, and other services aimed at meeting social equity goals.
Cloud computing works by storing data in massive data centers around the world instead of on our hard drives or our phones' memory. These data centers are extremely power-hungry, and if the global cloud computing industry was a single country, it would be the fifth-largest in the world in terms of energy consumption, according to Ed Turkel of Hewlett-Packard's Hyperscale Business Unit.
Cloud computing offers many advantages. It allows users to access videos, photos, documents, and other software from any device with an Internet connection and provides seamless inter-operability of devices so that users can begin watching a video or playing a game on one device and finish it on another device later. It also allows health care providers to store medical records and insurance companies to store claims so that doctors and agents can access the information in different locations. There are also obvious disadvantages. A lot of personal information is stored in the cloud, raising privacy concerns as health and financial information is provided to third parties that are only as secure as their infrastructure and passwords are.
For a larger image, and to unlock the interactivity of the graphic, please visit Oxford Economics
Follow PublicSphereWB on Twitter