Cloud Computing for Photographers

Unless you have been living under a rock (and I envy those who do) you have probably heard the term cloud computing mentioned at some point. Maybe people told you they store their images on the cloud or their website is hosted on the cloud. Unless you have a degree in computer science you may find the concept totally baffling. As a photographer with a degree in computer science allow me to try to explain things.

Definition

Instead of telling you what cloud computing is I will start with its opposite because it is what you probably understand. The desktop or laptop computer you use is not an example of cloud computing. The pictures you take and transfer to your computer go on your hard drive in a directory. To find them you need to get on your computer and go to the appropriate directory. The directory path of your hard drive points to the physical location of your pictures on your hard drive.

Your files are available regardless of whether you have Internet access or not. As long as your hard drive does not crash or your laptop gets stolen then you know where to find them. That is how we have usually done things.

Cloud computing in a nutshell basically means we do things on the internet without caring about how its done or where it is done.

If you use a cloud storage service like DropBox to store your files you store them on the Internet without caring or needing to know how its done. Your picture file could be stored on 5 different computers across 2 different data centers. Either way you do not need to care or worry about it.

On the cloud as long as you know what your file is called then you can find it. You do not need to know where it is actually stored. It works the same way your cell phone does. When somebody calls your cell phone the cell phone company looks up what cell phone to make ring and it does. You can upgrade your cell phone and it still works. The person calling you need not worry about the fact you changed your cell phone as long as that when they call your number you answer it.

When people talk about running data services on the cloud it just means they are setting things up without caring how they are actually implemented. When you open your Facebook page you are quite literally accessing thousands of servers across the world. The thing is that you do not need to know how Facebook is doing it to access your Facebook page. You plug in http://www.facebook.com and Facebook’s servers do all the magic.

So what?

I think this is a fair question to ask if you are a photographer. The best reason I can give is that when you take advantage of cloud computing services it means you get to spend less time playing system administrator and more time being a photographer.

Using cloud storage services means you can backup and retrieve your files from anywhere without having to figure out exactly where they are located. If you use multiple computers no more worrying about what is stored where since things are in a central repository. Also if you suffer some form of data loss then your files are stored safely offsite.

If you take advantage of a cloud computing service for hosting your website then it means you do not really have to concern yourself with how the actual website is setup and hosted. Most cloud computing services are setup in such a way to minimize their computing requirements which means they become cheaper for you to use.

I hope I have better illuminated the subject of cloud computing and you can get a better feel for what it can do for you.

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