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This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, June 2017
Cloud computing (the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer) refers to using web-based software and hardware to accomplish networked tasks that would otherwise be accomplished via isolated desktops. In cloud computing, applications and files stored on your desktop are run remotely on servers on the web ~ or metaphorically "...in the cloud". In other words, rather than using software oriented on the desktop, data is placed on the open web and operated on the web as platform. Cloud computing is often called green computing because the sharing of infrastructure and computer capacity over the web and on-demand is likely, at least in the long run, more efficient. Portability is one of cloud computing's affordances; social media tools such as Flickr, Google Docs and Facebook for example are being used for storage and accessibility on-the-go using mobile devices. The term cloud computing seems to date back to the 1950s in the days of mainframe computers which were remotely accessible via connected thin clients and dumb terminals.
Cloud computing offers several benefits and differences from desktop computing. First, high-demand tasks and storage reduce the burden on individual servers and help organizations offer increased service capability while minimizing costs (e.g. Foster 2008; 2009 & 2010 Horizon Report). Cloud computing forms the foundation and structure of social media where companies such as Amazon and Google harness technology while other organizations (both for profit and non-profit) take advantage of 'online storage' and tools such as Slideshare, GoogleDocs or wikis (DeMauro 2010; Gilmore 2008; 2010 Horizon Report). Cloud computing is ideally operated in a 24/7 environment with information available for storage and retrieval in real-time (on demand). Cloud computing also asks users to trust in their stability and security (e.g. 2009 & 2010 Horizon Report; various contributors, Wikipedia; etc..).
Examples of cloud computing
Collaborative potential in education
The term "cloud computing" has been bandied about in the media and discussed at IT and educational conferences. There is a lack of consensus on what it means and educational institutions have a vested interest in terms of its application and implementation. What exactly does it mean? What are the implications of a move to the cloud platform? Are these services secure? If the growth of social media and online tools are any indication, cloud computing will have a prominent role in the future and enable operations and initiatives that would otherwise be impossible under storage-constrained systems. The impact of cloud computing and its role it in the development of web 2.0 cannot be overstated.
To understand cloud computing it may be necessary to look to web 3.0 and beyond.
The advent of cloud computing has given rise to more third-party backup services such as Backupify, which allows users to backup several social media services including Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and Google services. In the scientific community, Figshare enables researchers to publish datasets, tables, videos, figures and other knowledge objects.
Issues associated with cloud storage
The notion of the cloud (and storing information there) presents challenges for librarians and information professionals. Data, records and archives are increasingly entrusted to Internet service providers (ISPs) who offer on-demand storage at low costs, protected by levels of security that no single information-based organization can possibly afford, and in formats compatible with most users' systems. But the cloud environment is neither transparent nor regulated; those who manage, appraise, control and preserve materials, encounter problems in the cloud related to ownership, provenance and jurisdiction, among others, and are without controls.