I just thought I would relay my experience changing my computing habits this past year to use more ‘cloud computing’ applications. What is cloud computing? According to Wikipedia, “Cloud computing refers to computing resources being accessed which are typically owned and operated by a third-party provider on a consolidated basis.” Because of easy access to high speed internet, and using multiple computers and platforms, I have slowly migrated my data from the desktop to the internet, thus consolidating where all my data is stored. The computer is now becoming more of a platform for accessing these services, redefining what a dumb terminal is. All I need to get things done is a browser for the most part.
Email is probably the best example of cloud computing. At first I was using gmail online only as a throwaway address. Because I have multiple email accounts, it was becoming harder to manage all of them in Outlook, on multiple computers so I decided to forward everything through my to Gmail account. Gmail is great because it has plenty of storage, its free and has fantastic spam filters. The final stroke came earlier this week when I reconfigured Outlook to use IMAP. Now all email is accessed remotely through Outlook, or the web or any other compatible client (Thunderbird on linux for example) and it stays on there. No email is downloaded locally anymore, I just look at it through Outlook or browser. This technology has been around for a while though, only just now have I found a use for it since I use so many computers. Its just easier to do it this way.
Remote file storage is also another tehnology that I have recently started using. There are plenty of services out there, both for free and subscription based. Although I backup to another drive regularly, the recent flooding we had this past year at the house opened my eyes to the realization that the data for both the backups and originals could have washed away. I now subscribe to the Amazon S3 storage service which has been a great investment. Now all my digital photos and important documents (in encrypted form using Truecrypt of course.) are stored up in the cloud. Its very cheap and it has unlimited data. The more you store the more you pay. So far 6 gigs worth of data is only costing about $1. One buck! Thats amazing. S3 is a bit trickier to setup than other services as it requires another client to access the service, Jungledisk. Once its setup its very easy to use and its also cross platform.
Applications that have traditionally been on the computer are also making their way to online versions. You don’t even need Office anymore, as Google has an entire suite of applications for word processing and number crunching for free. There are also a few others out there in this rapidly expanding segment. Even Adobe is getting in on the act with creating a Photoshop type tool for online photo manipulation.
I could go on about all the social applications that can be integrated into this as well. Sites like Flickr and Facebook are changing the way we interact and share such data but thats a post for another day.