The Cloud

Shelf-cloud-250For me, the cloud has arrived.  The cloud and cloud computing seems huge.  What is it about the cloud that has caught my fancy and the fancy of many other companies and individuals?  The biggest thing for me is convenience, and I want to say savings, but that's not necessarily true.  We'll start with the cloud for this article, and get to cloud computing in my next post.

At the risk of being a little too fundamental, what is the cloud?  The cloud is just another word for the Internet, but it implies a little more than just being able to communicate from one person to another, it means the ability to also store information on an Internet connected storage device  that you can access from any computer in the world.  That's the key to the whole shebang.  I'll have access to my phone numbers, credit cards, that special word document, slide presentation, or spreadsheet from any computer and any location in the world.

The advent of the cloud was caused by the huge number of computing devices we now have in our lives.  In the beginning we had our computers at home, and our computers at work, if we had to travel we had our laptops.  We started using USB jump drives to store information and transfer information from one computer to another.  I did this for a number of years.  Then the smart phones came into our lives and we could access the Internet from them.

It started making sense to have some way, other than a physical device, like the USB jump drive, to move our information from one device to another.  The other happening was that disk drives that store an increasing amount of information became really cheap.  It no longer cost that much to have huge disk farms.

There was one other objection to be overcome that delayed and still is delaying the complete move to the Internet for all storage, and that was the perception in everyone's mind that your information would not be safe or secure on the Internet.  That was beneficial as it gave the providers time to work out the kinks, and offer reliable services to the public.

Once I overcame the idea that I didn't know the physical device where my data resided, only a web address and log in, I found the cloud to be a no brainer.

How has the cloud affected what I do on a day-to-day basis?   I run a home desktop computer, where I do most of my home computing, a laptop that I take with me when work traveling, an eReader I take on vacations, a smart phone, and finally my computer at work.  All have access to the Internet.  When I'm at work, I want to access my home information.  As I said, I use to use my USB jump drive, or the Internet, to move information from one device to another.

For example, in the case of emails, I use to use the Thuderbird email client to download my emails from my email server to my home computer.  Then for emails on all the other computers, I would download the same messages, but leave the messages on the email server, only messages downloaded to my home computer would delete the messages on the email server.  This got to be a pain, because I would have to delete the same messages, over and over again on all my devices.  My home computer emails gradually took up my disk space, slowed my computer down, and I had to constantly watch for attachments that might have a virus payload in the email.

All that goes away with emails in the cloud.  I don't have to worry about disk storage, or slowing my computer down, or multiple deletions of the same email, or attachments that might have a virus, remember you're looking at your email in your browser window on your local computer, but the attachment resides on the Internet, it might corrupt your Internet server, which is no longer your worry, but not your home computer.

And so it goes with storage drives.  Large emails attachments sometimes couldn't get through the email file size restriction.  We started using Internet storage, like DropBox, to move larger files, bye, bye, USB jump drives.  Even DropBox was one step away from just having your own disk drive storage on the Internet, enter Google drive, and that my friends is just about where we are today.  One other plus is I no longer have to worry about backing up my disk drive, or my disk drive crashing, that's all taken care of for me.

Right now, I am storing everything I use to store on my local computer on the cloud.  I researched the best email server, and came up with Gmail, which works with Chrome, Google calendar, and Google apps.  Everything works seamlessly together, and I store my files on Google drive.

The only pain is log ins , passwords, and changing passwords after a certain period of time.  I log in to about 10 different servers at work all of which have different password requirements, I need some way to track these passwords in such a way that they are secure.  For this, and to store encrypted personal information, like credit cards, I use LastPass, and recommend it to all.

Using the cloud is a nice setup, and all I need to access all my information any where in the world is a browser window attached to the Internet.  Life is sweet.

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