The trends lead me to believe that the computing we do at home will soon reside predominantly “in the cloud.” This means that the applications that we use and rely on every day are not on our home computer, but rather in an application on the Internet that your browser accesses.
Move to “the cloud”
Many people have already moved. Here are some of the typical things others have done and what you can do yourself to make the change:
- Use Google Docs as your basic productivity tools. Not only are they very effective and free tools, but they are online and available wherever you go (docs.google.com). No need to buy Microsoft Office or download free Open Office from OpenOffice.org. I find that on my six year old PC, Google Docs will launch an application (eg Docs, Spreadsheet, GMail, etc.) in the cloud faster than I can launch a Microsoft Office product (eg Word, Excel, Outlook, etc.) ..) on my PC. Also, there is the freedom of not being tied to that one PC that is somewhere where it cannot always be accessed. A laptop works pretty well in this regard, but what happens when that laptop breaks or is lost? It feels the same as when you lose your wallet or keys. It doesn’t feel good at all. With home cloud computing, losing your equipment is a problem, but little of what you’ve been working on is lost.
- Use Mint.com, Quickenonline.com, or other online financial tracking programs. First, they are currently free. That is a great advantage. They are not as good, in my opinion, as an installed program like Quicken, at least not yet. However, if you’re doing nothing more than wanting to keep track of your current balances to make sure your cash flow is positive (meaning you’re not overspending), then these seem 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 staying in touch with family and friends and showing off your photos, networking with business partners, and looking for the next big opportunity.
- Get your news from CNN.com, USAToday.com or get more specific news of interest from more specialized sites. For example, I check consumerist.com and pcmag.com for practical information that I can use every day.
Access “the cloud” from anywhere
Because I moved so much of my mainstream computing to The Cloud, I found that I can access it from almost any PC and from my mobile phone. Having my cloud on my phone, which can surf the internet, is a phenomenal tool. If the Palm Pre or iPhone worked with my wireless service provider, I would upgrade and leave my trusty Motorola A1200.
Go “the cloud” but back up your critical data
Keep backup copies of your data, especially the 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 that I access in this very place. (This, I found, was very helpful when I changed my email account recently.) I backup the password file every day to The Cloud using IDrive.com. I also do a monthly backup of the password file on a USB drive that I keep in a fire safe.
Be safe in “the cloud”
The scariest part of moving to the cloud has to do with protecting your privacy and keeping your information safe. I admit that 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 I do business with. I have a free credit follow-up right now due to a recent incident at an investment firm.
My bank has also called me to ask about the charges made to my credit card. It turned out to be fraudulent and the bank removed the charges from my account. The interesting thing is that I had just downloaded my most recent bank transactions in Quicken. I did not see these fraudulent charges. I immediately made another download of my bank transactions. There they were, along with the transactions that reversed the charges. My bank had detected and responded very quickly to these illegitimate activities.
My confidence in the reasonable security of The Cloud is based on the fact that I have conducted business over the Internet since the early 1990s, when the Internet was opened to commercial sites. The examples with my bank and my investment company have helped me ensure that they are trying to proactively minimize the risk of loss.. There is no guarantee of safety. However, it’s not obvious that your risk of loss is higher at The Cloud than anywhere else.
“The cloud” is here and the publicity will pay for it
I believe that what we know as personal computing is moving to the cloud. In the near future, we will have much less dependence on a single piece of equipment loaded with a large amount of expensive software, much of which we will never use.
Of course, like broadcast media for decades, this cloud is driven by advertising. So, just like we used to watch TV for free, before cable TV, and we still listen to radio for free, It looks like we’re going to an ad-paid personal computing cloud. Your 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.