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! 🙂