As of late, there has been more and more talk about a computing concept known as “the cloud.”
What is the cloud, and why is it important to Android users?
To begin with, cloud computing refers to data storage and computation via Internet connection, and not requiring the user to be at a physical machine running the software or storing the data. An example would be uploading a collection of music files to a cloud storage service in a location other than the user’s location, and the user being able to access that music via whatever device he chooses, most usually a portable computer or cellular phone.
“The cloud” can refer to a specific network of servers set aside to perform a specific set of functions for remote devices, or can also be used to refer to the Internet itself as a whole. The cloud can be both private and public, with an example of public cloud services to be YouTube and Hulu, which provide video on demand for streaming to devices. Private cloud computing could include library databases, which store electronic versions of journals, books and encyclopedias for access via computers in libraries who have paid a subscription to access the data, but which otherwise would not be available outside of a library.
All very fascinating, you say, but what does this have to do with my Android phone?
Well, many experts believe that mobile computing via Smartphones will begin to make heavy use of the cloud to overcome memory limitations on phones, as well as access services and features that might not run on a phone itself but would run well via a web browser, such as web-apps. These are applications that are not installed to a device itself but instead are run from a web page accessed by the device.
Data stored to a cloud service, or programs run from the cloud, could, in theory, be accessible virtually anywhere, and maybe even from any device. It would make data and services more readily available to users.
Many Android phone users make use of their phones as portable music devices, but admit that sometimes the amount of storage on the phone can be restricting for those with large music collections. Imagine being able to upload your entire music collection to the cloud and stream it to your phone via your data connection or Wi-Fi? The service mSpot lets you do just that. For a variety of prices, from 2Gb for free to 50GB for $9.99 per month, you can upload your music and media and access it via mSpot’s Android application.
Besides the advantage of more versatile remote access, cloud computing also offers the benefit of remote data storage. If you live in an area prone to natural disasters, storing your personal data offsite can be a lifesaver should your home or business be destroyed in a storm of some type. After hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, many businesses in the area and archives began making use of companies such as Venyu, which offer data storage and remote access, but also computing services via the cloud. Venyu stores data in their warehouse of servers, all of which run on independent power supplies, in the event of catastrophic failure.
The cloud is the emerging future of computing, especially via mobile devices. The Android system is perfectly primed to allow for cloud computing given its versatility and ease with which applications can be written for it. Expect to see more cloud based services for Android in the future.