Cloud computing is simply distributing tasks among multiple computers. Whether it be storage or computationally intensive tasks, cloud computing can make tasks infeasible by a single computer doable. Normally cloud computing implies renting out other people’s computers.
In terms of deciding whether to use cloud computing or not, there are multiple things to consider. If you need to scale up and down computing resources, cloud computing can be a big money saver since you only pay for computers you are currently using. You also offload the burden of hardware maintenance and security concerns. Sometimes people have concerns about the privacy of cloud computing, but I believe for most cases it is very secure. Major cloud providers have a dedicated security team with far more expertise about secure server development than a lot of companies provide. Even though there have been some high profile security issues, for a lot of companies this is probably a more secure option. In terms of risk, you need to consider potential issues migrating legacy code to a cloud environment. You also are giving up a level of control by using someone else’s computers, which can be a problem depending on your application. Often times you might not be doing development on the cloud, only deployment, so you need to carefully consider environment differences causing problems. “Five Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Storage” mentions many of the pros and cons I have just outlined.
I’ve had some experience developing with AWS. I was led to use it for a lot of the positive reasons I listed in the paragraph above. Cloud computing has become very popular for these reasons and I intend to continue using services like AWS in the future when the positives outweigh the negatives.
As a consumer, there are some nice parts of using the cloud. It means you have access to your data from any device connected to the internet. Also, since data on your personal devices is far more likely to be lost to hardware failure than data in the cloud, your data is less likely to be lost. One of the negatives of cloud computing for consumers is privacy. Putting data on the cloud as opposed to personal computers means that companies have greater access to data and service usage information. Companies can predict scary things about people from big data. The article titled “Facebook Knew I was Gay Before my Family Did” is telling about the power of data. “Not Ok, Google” describes how Google is attempting to up the amount of data it collects by extending its hardware sales. Collecting and analyzing data like this would not be possible without cloud computing.
I do use multiple cloud products. I have a Google drive, use Google docs, and access financial information through the internet. At the end of the day, I do trust the cloud. I understand that my data is being used, but I view this as my payment for the convenience and free usage of many cloud products.