Home Computing in "The Cloud"
The trends lead me to believe the computing we do at home will soon predominately reside “in The Cloud.” This means the applications we use and rely on everyday are not on our computer at home but in an application out on the Internet and accessed by your browser.
Move Yourself To “The Cloud”
Many folks have already made the move. Here are some of the typical things others have done and what you can do to make the switch yourself:
- Use Google Docs as your basic productivity tools. Not only are they very effective and free tools, but they are on-line and available wherever you go (docs.google.com). You don’t need to buy Microsoft Office or even download the free Open Office at OpenOffice.org. I find that on my six year old PC, Google Docs will launch an application (e.g., Documents, Spreadsheet, GMail, etc.) in The Cloud faster than I can launch a Microsoft Office product (e.g., Word, Excel, Outlook, etc.) on my PC. Also, there is freedom in not being tied to that one PC sitting someplace where you can’t always get to it. A notebook works pretty well in this regard, but what happens when that notebook breaks or it goes missing? It kind of feels the same as when you lose your wallet or your keys. It does not feel good at all. With home computing in The Cloud, it is a problem to lose your equipment, but little of what you had been working on is lost.
- Use Mint.com, Quickenonline.com or other online financial tracking programs. First, they are currently free. That is one big advantage. They are not as good, in my opinion, as an installed program such as Quicken, at least not yet. However, if you are doing nothing other than wanting to track your current balances to ensure your cash flow is positive (i.e., not overspending), then these look like great tools.
- Use Facebook, LinkedIn or other social networking sites. These sites provide a powerful place to manage your social and professional life. This includes keeping in touch with family and friends and showing your photos, to staying networked with business associates and looking for that next big opportunity.
- Get your news from CNN.com, USAToday.com or get more focused news of interest from more specialized sites. For example, I pour through consumerist.com and pcmag.com for practical information I can use every day.
Access “The Cloud” From Anywhere
Because I’ve moved much of my mainstream computing to The Cloud, I find I can access it from just about any PC and from my mobile phone. Having my Cloud in my phone, which can browse the Internet, is a phenomenal tool. If the Palm Pre or the iPhone were to work with my wireless service provider, I would upgrade and give up my trusty Motorola A1200.
Use “The Cloud” But Backup Your Critical Data
Do keep backups of your data, especially data you need to access your sites on the web.
For passwords I use Password Safe which is free from sourceforge.net. This way I have all my passwords in one place. Consequently, I also have all those key sites I access in this same place. (This, I discovered, was very handy when I changed my e-mail account recently.) I backup the password file everyday to The Cloud using IDrive.com. I also do a monthly backup of the password file to a USB drive which I keep stored in a fire safe.
Be Secure In “The Cloud”
The scariest part of moving to the Cloud deals with the protection of your privacy and with security of your information. I admit this still worries me a bit. Can I really trust Google? Or how about trusting QuickenOnline.com with my financial data? We hear about data breaches every day. Some hacker broke in and stole personal information from thousands of customers. I have been notified more than once that this has happened at a company with which I do business. I have free credit monitoring right now due to a recent incident at an investment company.
I have also been called by my bank asking about charges made to my credit card. They turned out to be fraudulent and the bank removed the charges from my account. What was interesting is that I had just downloaded my most recent bank transactions into Quicken. I did not see these fraudulent charges. I immediately did another download of my bank transactions. There they were, along with transactions reversing the charges. My bank had detected and responded very quickly to these illegitimate activities.
My confidence in reasonable security in The Cloud is based upon my doing business over the Internet since the early 1990s when the Internet opened to commercial sites. The examples with my bank and with my investment company have helped reassure me that they are proactively trying to minimize the risk of loss. There is no guarantee of security. However, it is not obvious that your risk of loss is any greater in The Cloud than it is anywhere else.
“The Cloud” Is Here And Advertising Will Pay For It
I do believe that what we know as personal computing is moving into The Cloud. In the near future we will have much less reliance on a single piece of equipment loaded down with lots of pricey software, much of which we will never use.
Of course, like the broadcast media for decades, this Cloud is driven by advertising. So just as we once watched TV for free, before cable, and still listen to radio for free, it looks like we are going to a personal computing Cloud paid for by advertising. The personal computer will be needed to access The Cloud, but your software applications and information will be in The Cloud and not on your personal computer.