Setting up a large corporation includes providing each of your employees with computers and job-specific software--an expensive proposition. You may have to purchase software licenses for each new hire, or at the very least, check on whether the company software allows you to add on users. But researchers are exploring better ways to serve large corporations, such as one application that covers all employees.
Such an application would provide workers the tools they need through a web-based service which acts as a host for the various programs the employees require to do their jobs. This type of remote computing has the ability to handle any computing need you can think of, from word processing, to data analysis, to email. Remote computing is known as cloud computing because all data and programs are found on a virtual cloud of internet servers. Cloud computing is the new focus within the field of computer science.
This form of remote computing relieves the burden on local computers, at home or in the workplace. Files, data, and programs can all be handled by computers within the cloud's network. That means you don't need to have so many applications on your own computer's system. Instead of being top-heavy with programs and data, you only need an internet browser to provide the interface for using applications within the cloud.
If you've ever had a web-based email account with Hotmail, Yahoo!, or Gmail, you've already experienced cloud computing. Instead of setting up an email program on your PC, you access your email account on the web. The web-based program stores your mail so that your account takes up no room on your hard disk. Your account exists only on the computer cloud for this service.
But if a cloud computer service becomes popular, it is going to require a huge amount of space for storing client data. Because of the space issue, some companies will need to acquire many hundreds of digital storage devices. Since any computer can and will crash, cloud computing services have to double up on the number of storage devices needed to store all their clients' data. The cloud computing system creates copies of client information and retains this data on other storage devices. In the event of a crash, the main server can get the backup data from storage. This type of data copying is called "redundancy."
Cloud computing is a kissing cousin to two other types of computing: grid computing and utility computing. Grid computing allows computers linked to one network access to the resources of the other computers within the same network. This is as opposed to cloud computing, in which the main server has access to data from all users as well as backup data from storage devices, but the users don't have direct access to backup data or to the data of other clients. Utility computing is a commercial service provided to businesses in which one company pays to access the computer applications or data storage of another company.