“Cloud Computing” is here and it may very well be the next major productivity shift that you experience, if you have not already.
Cloud computing is a term that describes Internet / Web based applications, rather than running the application locally on your PC. For example, Google Docs is an office application that you use “in the cloud” rather than on your PC. With an Internet connection, you log into a particular website and access your work/data/files. The advantage to this is that from any PC the runs an appropriate web browser you may continue or access your work. Windows PC, Mac, Linux, etc.
There are many different schools of thought in regards to pros and cons of this type of computing. While you do gain a convenient way to get to and use your data, you do risk some degree of privacy and control over the data. In most cases, the vendor could choose to shut the servers off and stop providing that service to you causing you to have to find another way to that task! Of course, there are subscription services for cloud applications which will guarantee things like uptime, bandwidth, and duration. In fact, this type of delivery of applications (from the vendor to you) is what many feel the new trend will be. It is possible that rather than buying MS Office once and owning it, you would pay Microsoft, say $30/year and be able to use Word for the next year. Pretty nifty.
The main message is that it is possible to live your entire digital life through a browser on your machine or shared/public computer. You name it – E-Mail, word processing, spreadsheets, finance, photo editing, music, etc – are all available as services that you can do up in the cloud, armed with only a web browser. This now decouples the application from the PC, so you can use Windows, Mac, or Linux from any physical piece of hardware to get your work done. A lot of high end cellphones like Blackberry and iPhone can even be used to access these services. Most of these services are offered for free as a way to drive traffic to the vendor’s site. In addition to making your work available from any PC in the world, you also guarantee yourself at least some level of backup. By nature, the data is no longer stored on your PC so if your PC crashes you just need to get yourself back on-line. Plus, the vendors that provide you these services are very concerned with keeping their sites up at all times and you can count on the fact that they are backing up your data and trying their best to keep it available to you at all times.
So just be aware that there is yet another way to do things. These are fun and free services to play with, so there really isn’t any harm until you need to commit personal data.
I personally use some cloud applications to help shape my digital experience. A great example is this article! I started writing this in my office on my Vista desktop when I realized that Monday Night Football was starting. I picked up my XP laptop on the way to couch and logged back in to finish it up.
Here a few examples of cloud computing applications that you can get started with today:
- Google Docs – Suite of tools to create “Word” documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.
- 280 Slides – Advanced PowerPoint type presentations
- Microsoft LiveMesh – A sweet suite of internet based services
Give it a try and let us know what you think!