The Cloud: Larger And More Looming Than Ever

11/18/2016 - 04:00

AJ Earley | @ajvworld | Image: Krystian Olszanski

We all know what the cloud is, but do we really understand its future capabilities, and implications? It’s growing in size every day, and more data is being uploaded and stored remotely than ever before. From solid figures and statistics, to rumors of babies being given electronic tattoos that upload health data to the cloud, there is a lot of information flying around about the cloud these days. Here are some interesting facts, and some even more intriguing implications about the cloud and its future.

The Sheer Amount Of Data In The Cloud Is Staggering

As of 2013, the Cloud held an almost unimaginable amount of data. According to the tech news site Neowin, the cloud contained over an exabyte. One exabyte is equivalent to one million terabytes, or 1,073,741,824 gigabytes (1 billion GB)! To put that into further perspective, it has been said that:

5 exabytes would be equal to every word spoken in every language by all human kind.

Can you imagine how much data is floating out there now?

Most Companies Are Choosing The Cloud Over All Other Methods

Most companies prefer cloud storage: Yankee Group conducted a survey that found that 67% of companies preferred the private cloud over public software for storage. That’s already a two-thirds majority and the numbers could have only grown since then. We also have major companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple that rely heavily on the cloud to run their products and services. They are also responsible for some of the latest advancements in cloud technology. They have seamlessly brought the cloud into homes and businesses, where millions of people now rely on it and utilize in everyday life.

Not only are most companies utilizing the cloud, the majority of organizations use not one or two, but hundreds of cloud services. Revuezzle reported that most organizations utilize an average of 545 cloud services. That seems like a lot, but if you think about the fact that email, social media, and many games and apps all store your data in the cloud, it starts to sound more realistic.

The Cloud Is Changing The World

The cloud is poised to revolutionize higher education: as MOOCs (massive open online courses) are exploding. MOOCs allow anyone to take not-for-credit courses from institutions like Stanford and MIT. While it’s not predicted that this trend will lead to accredited higher education being free and accessible, it does indicate that cloud technology is making it possible for anyone to receive college level education, whether or not they have a piece of paper to prove it.

The cloud is also helping the environment. This infographic from University of California Riverside talks about the future of smart grid technology. These smart grids are made possible in part by cloud technology, which allows power usage statistics to be transferred to the cloud, where they can be studied and streamlined. Smart grids are projected to reduce up to 211 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The cloud also allows devices and meters to communicate with power companies to lessen unneeded power consumption.

The cloud is also revolutionizing healthcare. According to The University of Illinois at Chicago, cloud technology is improving healthcare in numerous ways. The cloud gives multiple doctors from multiple practices access to the same health histories, which saves both professionals and patience time, money, and potential mistakes. The cloud not only allows for the possibility of collecting individual patient data for study and analysis, but it also carries the potential of anonymously collecting numerous individual’s data to better understand the general public’s health. Cloud technology also allows implanted medical devices to transfer and store data (PDF) in the cloud, making it easier for medical professionals to access vital information about their patients. Let's hope that all manufacturer's take encryption seriously and fully secure this vital data.

The Cloud Still Faces Skepticism

The cloud has a conflicted reputation still to this day. Despite all of the current and potential benefits of mass data collection and aggregation, it hasn’t escaped some negative connotations. According to The Atlantic, the discussion and public opinion of data collection policies is fuzzy at best. Some feel their data is being collected necessarily, while others feel it is being used poorly, or even maliciously. Others are concerned that their data is not safe, which is valid, considering that some data-collection policies are kind of shady and the multitude of high level breaches happening consistently. It's always good to stay on top of these things and take a personal cyber security assessment from time to time. Constant vigilance.

The cloud also has its dangers. There’s the obvious concern that cloud-stored medical records are easier to breach, but that’s not the only sensitive information that is at risk. Ransomware (malicious viruses that hold data for a literal ransom) is possible solely because of shoddy cloud security. This is very common and makes it somewhat easy for hackers to access any vital or sensitive data and commandeer it until a ransom is paid. If the fact that big data is sometimes worth as much as a human life (to hackers), then what else could signal that cloud technology has come of age?

While all of these concerns are valid, we can’t ignore the many ways cloud computing is improving the world. We certainly can’t ignore the fact that the cloud is, indeed, larger and more looming than ever.