One of the computer buzzwords these days is “Cloud Computing”, where everything is done online while connected to the Internet. It seemed to have started when people were able to use a web browser to check their emails and not have to download them to their PCs using an Email Client program, but now has expanded to more PC-like functionality. With more people connected to the Internet via wireless Broadband, DSL, or Cable, it seems that the PC capability can be offered with online resources.
For example, my wife uses an online service called Carbonite that backs up her important documents to an online file server. This is done automatically, as her main Desktop PC is continuously connected to the Internet via a Cable Modem connection. It’s a great backup solution if you have the transfer bandwidth and a constant Internet connection.
It’s going to take a huge paradigm shift on my part to move away from the “old school” PC approach to the new online cloud era. Jumping on the cloud computing bandwagon, I’ve tried to use the Google Suite of online tools (Email, Calendar, Docs, Contacts) to centralize my important information so that it is accessible from my Desktop PC, traveling laptop, and my Windows Mobile Smartphone device. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck. Most of my calendar activity revolves around Microsoft Exchange, since that is what my company uses to handle calendar, email, and contact information. As such, it’s difficult for me to effectively integrate my work calendar/email/contacts with my personal schedule data. Sure, there’s lots of utilities that will “sync” such information here and there, to and from Google, etc., but I can’t seem to find anything that works well and doesn’t require an active personal computer constantly managing everything.
In addition, I always seem to forget that I have data stored in the “cloud”, as I’m so use to accessing it as files stored on my PC/laptop hard drive. Part of the problem, is that I don’t put all my files in the cloud, only a subset of them. As such, I can’t remember what files I have online and what files I only have on my PC. I think that if I had all my files online, then that might be a different story. But since I’ve got several Gigabytes of data I don’t think it would practical to upload everything to an online file server.
I’ve also tried using Google Docs to store and retrieve information that I use on a constant basis, however, I find using the Google online doc editor a bit cumbersome. I like the fact that I can read my docs using my Moto-Q Smartphone, but creating such docs is pain from Google’s web PC interface.
One online storage service that I’ve found is www.box.net, which offers up to 2 GB of storage space. From what I can tell, this service allows you to upload files to an online server which you have access to from any computer connected to the Internet. But again, the manual process of uploading files and remembering what you’ve uploaded doesn’t appeal to my needs.
Another service that I stumbled on is offered by www.getdropbox.com which is basically an online file syncing application. What’s nice, is that files in a folder on one PC system can be automatically synced to getdropbox.com, and resynced to a different computer system. So you can use their system to sync files between multiple computers and also store these same files on an online server, as well as share files with others. Also, you can access them using a web browser from any PC if you wish. This service is free for up to 2 GB of storage space. Definitely worth checking out.
So in the end, I’ll have to change my way of thinking so far as effectively utilizing cloud computing. It definitely has its place on the Internet, so I’ll need to find the right tools and utilities to make my life more productive!