Cloud Computing – getting closer!

The concept of ‘cloud computing’ had me very confused for a while, I really had no clue what these buzz words actually meant., or what benefit it would give me. Eventually ‘daylight dawned’ and I not only understood what the pundits meant, I discovered that I’d actually been using it for some time! 🙂

At the simplest level, even a personal website is cloud computing. Basically *anything* you access/store/manipulate etc anywhere online, and off your own hard drive, could be gathered under the umbrella term. In practice however the term has slowly developed to the point where it’s taking on a subtle difference. Now it’s becoming understood as covering any activity you currently do locally, i.e. on your own computer HDD, but can be done online.

So for me, apart from this sort of site, the most obvious use of ‘cloud computing’ has been Google Mail which I’ve been using for some time. However I’ve slowly been getting used to accessing my *data* online as well. I have been using a backup service called ‘Mozy Home‘ and currently have some 45Gb backed up ‘just in case’. It ‘syncs’ overnight when I’m asleep and ensures that if the machine is stolen or destroyed I’ve not lost all my data… photos, music, documents etc. Diverging slightly from the topic, being with Mozy has some added benefits. If the computer is stolen and used by the thieves, it’s possible I might be able to locate who they are and where my machine is by downloading *their* files which Mozy would have backed up! 🙂

Moving on, I’ve just started using an online facility called ZumoDrive. It’s still in beta and ‘invitation only’ but still worth checking out. The free account gives you 1Gb of space to give you a chance to evaluate its usefulness. Basically it’s a hybrid system that creates a ‘virtual drive’ on your computer which you can use exactly the same way as any other drive on your machine, with a few important differences.

To begin with the data isn’t stored on your hard drive, it’s uploaded to the ‘cloud’. Secondly, that data can be accessed anywhere you have access to a computer. Thirdly, you can use it as a ‘file sharing utility’ by giving access to other people via your own, or alternate email address logins!

Naturally it has a few drawbacks, the main one being using it for *all* your data needs a fast broadband account… and if you have no web access you have no access to your data. For the most part tho this just means modifying what you upload and for storage/easy access of images etc it’s ideal. I tried using it to ‘stream’ my Lord of the Rings music to my netbook using a free connection at the local Macca’s and it worked perfectly. I’m seriously considering opening a monthly account (10Gb for $2.99/month) and using it for more file transfers!

There are other ways of achieving the same ends, tho perhaps not quite so elegantly. One of these would be the Windows Live SkyDrive. With the SkyDrive, Microsoft has given all users a 25Gb online storage space which they can access, use for file sharing etc. It isn’t as versatile as ZumoDrive, but is free and of course, works.

The point is that as the cloud develops more and more features and functions will be made available for online use. Already Google online offers tools including a word processor, spreadsheets, presentation software etc. Add in the mail service, blogging facility, photo storage etc and you can begin to see a time closing in where purchasing an expensive computer for ‘home use’ will be a thing of the past.

From my perspective – sooner the better! 🙂

One thought on “Cloud Computing – getting closer!

  1. The whole point of Cloud computing is that is it portable, has no restrictions on point of entry and offers services that are not restricted to time of use. I’ll explain, currently Cloud computing offers flexibility to services such as the one described – portable disc without the physical problems of carrying it around. These are short term benefits but are not the strategic reason for the investment. The point is that it may eventually transform our daily lives.

    e.g. We order food, the fridge recognises when that food in used and automatically buys a replacement – however history shows we have eaten many types of that food so we are given options. The options can be given to us anywhere, in work, at home, in the car at the gym etc.. etc..

    e.g. I am involved in an road traffic accident, I am lying in the middle of the road with a paramedic next to me, my iris is scanned and all my patient data is presented to the paramedic, on the way to the hospital my injuries are already being assessed by Triage, they understand my history and my injuries but have a specific question, the leading expert on my condition is in California however I can contact her, not only can I contact her an get an immediate response, I can send her my history and my current injuries, she can give an opinion, help save time and lives. I can also do this is a ‘data secured’ way.

    These examples are dependent on Cloud computing concepts and collaborative tools delivered within that cloud and have a direct impact on the way we work and live. The potential for this is limitless.

    It is the strategy for Microsoft and is the future for computing as a whole – it changes the way in which we use and more importantly interact computing fundamentally – it becomes part of our daily lives rather than something we conciously use.

    The world we live in is about to change again, all we’re waiting for is fast web access both fixed and mobile services to make cloud computing a real and viable method of service delivery.

    It was a dream 20 years ago – we’re only about 2-3 years away from it becoming a reality.

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