Cloud Computing: A Step Away from the Physical and a Step Towards the Virtual

Image: Pixabay. No Attribution Required.

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is defined by Etro (2009) as new general purpose internet based technology where information is stored in servers and provided as a service on demand to clients.

It is the delivery of computing services such as storage, servers, databases over the internet (Microsoft, 2018). This type of service is sold to businesses worldwide and acts as a more accessible, flexible, scalable and secure solution for handling services for example emails (Martin, 2010).

Cloud computing offers an alternative for individuals and businesses to holding their data on their own servers.

The invisibility of cloud computing has resulted in the manifestation of ignorance among users in terms of the political, social and cultural implications of the concealed infrastructure on society.

Internet infrastructures are more than material hardware, they are highly political technologies that facilitate day to day transactions and interactions.

Watch a short video explaining cloud computing here:

There are three types of cloud computing:

  1. Private clouds:
  • This is where cloud computing resources are used exclusively by a single business or organisation
  • Technology is on-site
  • The services and infrastructure are maintained by a private network
  1. Public clouds:

    Types of Cloud Computing, retrieved 12 October 2018, from
  • Owned and managed by a cloud service provider or third party who specialise in delivering the computing resources
  • Access via web browser
  1. Hybrid clouds:
  • A combination of both public and private clouds
  • Technology allows for data and applications to be shared between them
  • The hybrid cloud offers greater flexibility

The Genesis of Cloud Computing:

Cloud computing represents the convergence of two major trends in IT:

  1. IT efficiency
    • The power of modern computers is utilised more efficiently through highly scalable hardware and software services
  2. Business agility (Avrim, 530.)

Modern day cloud computing has come as a result of the rapid development of processing and storage technologies. The report “Advantages and challenges of adopting cloud computing from an enterprise perspective” explains how today, computing resources are cheaper, more powerful and more available than ever before (Avrim, 2013).

Timeline: adapted from Keith Footes (2017) web article “A Brief History of Cloud Computing

1963 : Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency presented MIT with $2 million for project MAC. This was to develop a computer that could be used by more than two people concurrently.

DARPA MAC, 1963. Retrieved from:

1969: JCR Lickida : Advanced Research Projects Agency Network

1990:  early stages of the cloud, presented as an empty space between the provider and the end user

1997: Cloud Computing defined as a computing paradigm, where the boundaries of computing will be determined by economic rationale, rather than technical limits alone by Professsor R Chellapa, of Emory University.

1999: Salesforce used cloud computing successfully à initiated the idea of using the internet to provide software programs to consumers

2002: Amazon introduced web based retail services. By using cloud computing they were able to use their computers capacity much more efficiently


  • Amazon opened up their services to other websites
  • Google Doc services developed by Google. Initially this was two services:
  1. Writely – this offered renters the power to save docs, edit them and transfer them into blogging systems
  2. Google Spreadsheets – this was an internet based program which allowed the users to develop, update and edit spreadsheets to share the data online

2007: IBM, Google and several universities joined forces to develop a server farm for research projects that required fast processors and huge data sets

2011: IBM created the IBM Smart Cloud working towards a smarter planet

2011: Apple offered their service ‘iCloud’ for storing more personal information

2014: By 2014, Cloud computing had developed its basic features and security was the main focus. This has advanced significantly in the last two years and now provides protection that is equitable to conventional IT systems.

How it is part of historical trends in communications media and information management?

The ongoing transformation of cloud computing has been in the works since late 20th century (Patten, 2011). Cloud computing has paved the way for millions of businesses and individuals in terms of innovation and accessibility. It has transition from business oriented service to a service for the masses.

I would label Apples introduction of the iCloud a turning point in cloud computing as it marks a shift away from what had previously been marketed as a business platform. Now cloud computing offers a personalised service that accommodates similar needs of individuals.

Cloud computing has become engrained in day to day life. In terms of communications and information management there are a multitude of applications, and gadgets that are connected to the cloud. This means that they function instantaneously and on demand. An example of this is Amazon’s product Alexa. The voice command robot is a smart tool that responds to users requests and does what it is told for example play music and answer any question that it is asked. Paige Leskin’s Business Insider article (2018) “Over a million people asked Alexa to marry them in 2017 and it turned down them all” exhibits the obvious presence of cloud computing in day to day life. This has lead to an increase in on demand actions and in turn reliance on the cloud computing.

“Image: Screenshot of Alexa from Amazon Website. No attribution Required.”

Who owns and controls the key business in this field?

Three corporations are fighting for dominance in the Cloud Computing world: Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Salesforce and Apple (‘Clash’, 2009).


Image: EdSurge. Retrieved from

Currently, Google’s place in the race may be compromised after dropping out of the Pentagon cloud-computing contract  which is said to be favouring Amazon.

Political implications:

  • Cloud computing continues to facilitate the ongoing process of globalisation.

Chairman of Virgin Group, Peter Norris, discusses the complexities of cloud computing. Click the image for the link to the video. 

  • Cloud computing provokes political concern due to the global scale of the network and the global boundaries that are crossed.
  • In most cases, there is a discrepancy between where the processing takes place and where the data is accessed by the customers. As a result of this variation cloud computing is multijurisdictional where different rules and regulations apply.
  • Due to the borderless nature of cloud computing it needs to be separated from politics to some extent.
  • Political leaders have the power to create laws that negatively impact the development of the global cloud
  • Read Tom Daeman’s (2018) article about the impact of the US Cloud Laws on Australian Businesses.

The US Patriot Act

The US Patriot Act gave the American government undisputed access to peoples data if they were stored on the cloud servers of US providers such as Microsoft (Lakatos, 2012). During this time the Canadian public requested that their government did not use computers in the global network that had been operating within US borders. This is because they were uncertain of the implications of confidentiality and the privacy of the US data stored on them.

Amazon Web Services: Amazon Virtual Private Cloud

This allows businesses to connect to existing infrastructure to a set of isolated Amazon Web Services compute resources via a VPN connection. To comply with EU data regulation, they have physically set up storage in the EU region.

Social implications of Cloud Computing:

  • The rise of cloud computing will democratise IT infrastructure. Thanks to cloud computing, anyone who has an idea and internet connection is able to control powerful data processing resources which had previously been available only to those who were running well financed businesses. (Dignan, 2008)
  • This technology effectively reduces barriers to entry for smaller firms tyring to benefit from compute intensive business analytics that were only available to the largest of corporations (Avrim, 2013). This encourages innovation and the development of start ups. Whi
    Image: Pixabay. No Attribution Required.

    ch will lead to the ongoing development of goods and services that have the potential to improve the quality of life and social conditions globally.

  • Cloud computing presents a huge opportunity for societies in third world countries that have been left behind in the IT revolution (Avrim, 531)
  • The incredible infrastructure enables organisations to distribute their developments across the world more easily. The system extends beyond social, geographical and economic boundaries as it allows businesses to reach individuals in developing countries who do not have access to technology that is powerful enough to download and efficiently run traditional client server applications (Patten, 2011)

An ongoing social concern that can’t be ignored is the assurance of privacy and protection within the cloud. There is uncertainty about the security at all levels. Today it is a focus of cloud providers that they ensure there is ongoing assurance and protection.


  • Despite the clean, eco-friendly title that cloud computing has assumed the environmental impacts differ from this description.
  • Anna Reading and Tanya Notley’s article “The materiality of globital memory: bringing the cloud to earth” brings to light the detrimental effects that cloud computing has on the earth and mining natural resources.
  • ‘The production of these kind of memory keeping technologies is not acknowledged by the wider public because they don’t actually understand the production process’ which reflects the ignorance among cloud computing users. This prevents all users from bearing the burden of the damages caused by demand and addiction for information and cloud computing dependent technologies.
  • There have been campaigns like the Save Malaysia campaign that have been fighting to protect the earths natural resources, known as ‘rare earths’. Whilst this has gained a following and attention from the public it has also stressed the tension between preventing the mining of natural resources, whilst relying on them to convey the messages of the campaign.
Screenshot: Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas Campaign. No attribution required.

Cultural Implications of Cloud Computing:

Cloud computing is becoming increasingly engrained in our corporate culture and day to day lifestyles. The key features accessibility and reliability underscore the reason for the wide acceptance and increasing reliance on such systems. Cloud computing will allow for the possibility to share the costs and benefits among large groups of people further establishing its place in our culture. This means that resources are spread among users as well as the costs. IBM Smartcloud which IBM classified as a Cultural Thinking project,  IBM offered this product as services that could be self service or managed services.

Overall, despite the invisibility of the cloud, it has a strong presence in society today. Cloud Computing crosses many boundaries and provokes political, social, and cultural change. As users of cloud computing it is important that we try and remain aware of the impact it is having on us and our surroundings.


Avram, G. (2013). Advantages and challenges of cloud computing from an enterprise perspective (Doctoral Thesis, Doctoral School of Economics and Business Administration Business Informatics Department, “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” Univeristy). Retrieved from

Definition of Cloud Computing. (2018). Retrieved 12 October 2018, from

Etro, F. (2009). Economic Impact of Cloud Computing Business Creation, Employment and Output in Europe:  Application of e Endogenous Market Structures Approach to a GPT Innovation. In Review of Business and Economics. Retrieved from:

Foote, K. (2017). A Brief History of Cloud Computing. Retrieved 10 October 2018, from

Lakatos, A. (2012). The USA Patriot Act and the Privacy of Data Stored in the Cloud. Retrieved from

Kluwer, W. (2011, April 18). Cloud Computing Defined [Video file]. Retrieved from

Martin, F. (2018). ARIN2610 Internet Transformations, lecture 4, week 4 – Invisible infrastructures [Lecture].

Norris, P. (2015). Is Globalization Getting More Complex?. Yale School of Management. Retrieved 11 October 2018, from

Patten, G. (2011). The Political Economy of Cloud Computing. Retrieved from

Reading, A. & Notley, T. (2015). The Materiality of globital memory: bringing the cloud to earth. Continuum. 511-21, doi: 10.1080/10304312.2015.1051807



Martha Millett
About Martha Millett 3 Articles
I am a fourth year Arts and Economics student who is majoring in Art History, Marketing and Economics. I love playing tennis

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