A basic definition of cloud computing is the use of the Internet for the tasks you perform on your computer. The "cloud" represents the Internet.
Cloud Computing is a Service
The simplest thing that a computer does is allow us to store and retrieve information. We can store our family photographs, our favorite songs, or even save movies on it. This is also the most basic service offered by cloud computing.
Flickr is a great example of cloud computing as a service. While Flickr started with an emphasis on sharing photos and images, it has emerged as a great place to store those images. In many ways, it is superior to storing the images on your computer.
First, Flickr allows you to easily access your images no matter where you are or what type of device you are using. While you might upload the photos of your vacation to Greece from your home computer, you can easily access them from your laptop while on the road or even from youriPhone while sitting in your local coffee house.
Second, Flickr lets you share the images. There's no need to burn them to a compact disc or save them on a flash drive. You can just send someone your Flickr address.
Third, Flickr provides data security. If you keep your photos on your local computer, what happens if your hard drive crashes? You'd better hope you backed them up to a CD or a flash drive! By uploading the images to Flickr, you are providing yourself with data security by creating a backup on the web. And while it is always best to keep a local copy -- either on your computer, a compact disc or a flash drive -- the truth is that you are far more likely to lose the images you store locally than Flickr is of losing your images.
This is also where grid computing comes into play. Beyond just being used as a place to store and share information, cloud computing can be used to manipulate information. For example, instead of using a local database, businesses could rent CPU time on a web-based database.
The downside? It is not all clear skies and violin music. The major drawback to using cloud computing as a service is that it requires an Internet connection. So, while there are many benefits, you'll lose them off if you are cut off from the Web.