Have you ever wondered if it would be possible to log onto a computer you have never used before, but have all your applications, data and settings from your home computer? Although businesses and schools (like Cal Poly) have been using this method for years, a few companies like Microsoft, Apple and specifically Google are seriously considering this as the new standard for user-computer interactions.

Have you ever used Gmail, Hotmail, Office365, MobileMe or Facebook? All are very successful examples of cloud computing. In essence, cloud computing is the storage of user data on an external server, accessible from any computer connected to the server. In English, that means your data would be stored just like e-mails on Gmail or pictures on Facebook. Logging into the server will allow you to access all of your data from anywhere in the world.

Google wants to take this even further and build the entire operating system on cloud computing. Essentially, users create an account at the computer’s boot-up, then login like they would normally. Any computer running Google’s operating system will allow users to access to their files and desktop from anywhere.

This idea is absolutely revolutionary and it will change how we use computers and will be very useful technology. Computers will drop in price because the computer won’t need to be as powerful anymore. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will have to provide faster service and with “Super” WiFi, it would seem that you will always have access to your data in the sky.

However, not everyone is thrilled. Excluding Google’s past history with personal data and privacy, cloud computing is not secure. Thieves could intercept data transmitting in the air or within the server itself. Users would rely on the company to guard the servers, as well as keep them maintained. An even greater danger is data mining. The company you trusted to store your data just might keep tabs on what you’re doing, and sell that information. It happens now — just ask Mark Zuckerberg. After all, he didn’t get rich just for the creation of Facebook; he used the power his users gave him.

Ranting aside, some of the things cloud computing requires are actually rather interesting. For one, ISPs will need to step up with fiber optic transmissions and gigabit connections. The current download and upload speeds are fine for the basic tasks we do today, but anything more intensive than online gaming — as impressive as that is — will require even more power. Imagine wanting to edit an image using Adobe Photoshop that was installed onto a server space; the bandwidth required surpasses what we have readily available.

Personally, I am not looking forward to cloud computing at all, but I can see that it will certainly provide some benefits.

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