I’m vacationing with my family, without a laptop in tow, when I get a call from an editor. He needs revisions to an article and he needs them NOW! In an earlier era that could have meant a panic attack. But I go to the hotel’s business center. I log on to my Google account, find the document I need in Google Docs, make the revisions, and email the document. Crisis resolved. That’s cloud computing in action.
According to Andrew Kovacs of Google’s Enterprise Group, “Cloud computing is the new model of delivering software and information over the Internet using huge servers instead of storing it on your own computer.” In theory, that means you can have the programs you need, like word processing, spreadsheets, and email, delivered from a server anywhere to any device that has Internet connectivity. That could be a computer, a tablet, or a smartphone, or one of Google’s freshly minted Chromebooks. You can keep your documents, music, pictures, and videos up in the cloud so you can access them from anywhere, and protect them from local computer crashes.
Cloud computing applications are often cheap, if not free. A DVD version of the most popular shrink wrapped software program on the planet, Microsoft Office, can set you back anywhere from $75 to $200 depending on the version. Google Docs, which includes word processing, spreadsheets and more is free to individual consumers, but there’s a fee for businesses. Admittedly Google Docs doesn’t have all the same bells and whistles as Microsoft Office, but for most of us it has all the functions we’ll ever use. And while Google has invested heavily in the cloud, so have other companies including storage companies like Carbonite, Amazon’s music service that lets you store all your music in the cloud, eBay and YouTube.
Another advantage to cloud computing is that your data is generally accessible regardless of the format or operating system used to create it. That means grabbing your pictures or documents from virtually any Internet connected computer regardless of what applications are on it. And you can do it from anywhere you can get a connection.