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The Benefits of Cloud Computing

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Photo via Flickr.

Until about 4 months ago, I hadn’t really grasped the concept of cloud computing. Alot of tech people would talk about it as if it were the holy grail and it was a concept used to applaud the innovation behind the Kindle.   Unfortunately, I didn’t really get it.  

Cloud computing is the concept that all information is stored outside the device you use to interact with the data.   For example, if you have a computer, your programs might be installed on the computer (called a local install or a client install) but all the data that you create would be stored somewhere else, in the cloud.   

The perfect example is blogging.   The only local software I have installed is a browser (I use Chrome).   From the browser, I am able to access the blogging software and all the data is stored outside of my laptop.   Gmail or Yahoo is an example of cloud computing.   Your emails can be accessed via your browser from anywhere there is web connection. Your emails are not device dependent.

For the Kindle, all the books that you can read on the device is stored at the Amazon servers.   The theory behind this remote storage system is that the information can be  accessed at any time, from anywhere that you have access to the Sprint cellular signal.   

The ideal of cloud computing is that wherever you can access the internet, no matter the operating sysem of your device, you can access your data.   

For anyone with more than one computing device, cloud computing is very attractive.   If you are home, on vacation, or in your office, you can access and manipulate your data.   Cloud computing also enables the crowd sourcing.   This can be best exemplified by Google Docs.   If you create a document in Google Docs, you can share that document with other people.   They can collaborate with you and make changes.   (This works great for SB Sarah and I as we work together to craft announcements and schedules for the DABWAHA).

So what brought me to an understanding of the benefits of cloud computing?   It was dropbox.   I wanted a way that I could synchronize my ebook library between my netbook and main laptop.   Dropbox allows a synchronization between any number of devices of documents placed in a certain folder.   Dropbox immediately recognizes that a new document or a newly modified document should be uploaded to the Dropbox servers and then it is “pushed” to the folder of those computers that are set to synchronize.   Dropbox helps me maintain only one database for my ebook files but one database I can access anywhere.

It also helps to provide redundancy.   In other words, the same data exists on at least three computers – the Dropbox server, my netbook, and my laptop – the three computers that I have set to synchronize that data.   Recently, I’ve added all my iTunes purchases in the dropbox so that my husband and I can share the movies, music, and tv shows we buy.

There are online backup services like Mozy and Carbonite which include some cloud like abilities.   I also recognize that true   cloud computing is more than merely acessing of data and the movement of data from one device to another.   True cloud computing is like wordpress blogging and google apps wherein the software to access and manipulate the data   runs platform independent and from the web.   

There are downsides to cloud computing.   If there is no way to access the data other than through the web, you are losing control over your own data.   For example, if you buy Kindle books via the iPhone there is no easy way to obtain copies of those files whereas with the Kindle device, you had the option to download the files to your laptop.   There is no true ownership over those files purchased with the iTouch and pursuant to the Kindle useragreement, they can restrict your access to those files at any time for any reason.   

To the extent, though, that cloud computing forces more platform independent software and allows us to access and manage our information whereever we are, the closer we are to harnessing technology for our benefit, making our devices work for us.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

11 Comments

  1. L Martin Johnson Pratt
    Mar 29, 2009 @ 12:44:20

    Thank you for this simple easy to understand explanation of Cloud Computing

  2. Jinni
    Mar 29, 2009 @ 13:36:51

    OMG I think you may have changed my life. I’m going to stop carrying that damn flash drive around my neck and return the wireless networking device I bought from my home computers (that requires they all be on).

    Yeah.

  3. Sela Carsen
    Mar 29, 2009 @ 13:37:09

    Makes perfect sense to me. I travel more than I think I do (ok, that makes sense in my head) and being able to blog and e-mail from wherever I am makes a world of difference.

    I just never had a name for it before! This does put another point in the Pro column for the Kindle, sans the iPhone.

  4. MoJo
    Mar 29, 2009 @ 14:06:23

    This is the best explanation of cloud computing I’ve ever seen.

  5. Angela James
    Mar 29, 2009 @ 14:20:25

    So do you use the free version of Dropbox or the pay version?

  6. Jane
    Mar 29, 2009 @ 15:41:58

    @Angela James: I use the pay version. It was worth it for me. and right now I wish I had put everything in the dropbox because I’m suffering a little harddrive malfunction.

  7. charles frenzel
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 20:07:14

    We use Carbonite because we have more than 2 terrabytes on line, and are going to a combination of the two approaches in the next few months. Mainly I wanted to compliment you on one of the most succinct piece on the reasons for cloud computing that I’ve yet run across. I’m passing it on to the the tech people so they can learn to communicate :)

  8. Imogen Howson
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 03:41:54

    That was a great article. I just got the free version of Dropbox and it seems really good.

    I don’t dare quite use it as the only place I store files (I need everything to be backed up many many times), but of course you can save a file on your normal hard drive and then save it again into your Dropbox folder. It seems as if it’s going to be brilliant for sharing with other computers in the house (so useful for work!), and of course it’s yet another back up.

    I noticed, too, that files in my Dropbox folder are still getting automatically backed up with Carbonite. Which is nice, in a kind of belt and braces and extra braces and buttons and sticky tape and velcro way.

  9. suzi-Q
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 20:48:56

    Neal Stephenson’s book The Diamond Age used allegory to explain cloud computing, among other nano-concepts. worth reading.

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