What the hell is "the Cloud" and why Africa should care

I work for Microsoft and my Job is to drive Azure consumption. Azure is Microsoft's cloud.  Prior to joining Microsoft, I had no clue what it really meant to be on the cloud. Some of us have iPhones, so our first introduction to the "cloud" was probably iCloud with Apple "forcing" people to back up their data to the cloud. After working for Microsoft for 4 months, I "kinda" get it. This blog is my translation from techy jargons to human readable English.

First of all, there is no cloud, sorry to disappoint you.  According to Wikipedia, "the term cloud is used as a metaphor for the Internet, based on the cloud drawing used in the past to represent the telephone network, and later to depict the Internet in computer network diagrams as an abstraction of the underlying infrastructure it represents", if that makes sense to you. Basically, the cloud is not in the sky, as some of you might think. The cloud is on the ground - it is a set of computers (virtual machines) stored "somewhere else" (Datacenter) . For example, when you save an image to your laptop, the image exists on your laptop. However, when you save an image to the cloud, the image exists on another computer somewhere else. That is what it means to save your data to the cloud - you are saving your data to another computer somewhere else.

Why is this important to understand? First of all, it would make you look a tad-bit smart when you are talking to someone technical. Lol. Second, the cloud has made it easier than ever to get a start-up company running fast. You don’t have to buy servers anymore, companies like Microsoft can take care of all that compute while you are using the cloud. You also only pay for what you use. For instance, if traffic on your website occurs only during the weekdays, you can save a ton of $$ during the weekends and run only what is needed - this is the beauty of cloud computing.

Now, why should Africa care? The cloud can actually improve the economy of a lot of African countries. Suddenly, startups can leverage the cloud to get their product into the market faster. Hospitals can collect data about patients and store all the information to the cloud and not worry about buying massive computers. Remember, you can access the cloud from a mobile device, so having a mobile device can give you access to terabytes of data that is not necessarily stored on a phone.  I know that internet is also an issue in some parts of Africa, but with the cloud, we don’t need to worry about it too much. All you need is enough data to access the cloud, while all the other computing and processing can be done in the cloud ( "another computer stored somewhere else")

Getting started with the cloud is easy and cheap. I kid you not, with $0, you can have a website running in less than 10 mins. Get started with Azure (Microsoft's cloud)  here.