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Home Computing in "The Cloud"
Trends lead me to believe that the computing we do at home will soon be prevalent “in the cloud”. This means that the applications we use and rely on every day are not on our computer at home, but in an application on the Internet accessed by your browser.
Move to “The Cloud”
Many people have already taken the step. Here are some typical things others have done and what you can do to make the change yourself:
- Use Google Docs as your primary productivity tools. Not only are these very effective and free tools, they are also online 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 found that Google Docs on my six year old computer will run an application (eg Docs, Spreadsheet, GMail, etc.) in the cloud faster than I can run a Microsoft Office product (eg Word, Excel, Outlook, etc. .) on my computer. Also, there’s freedom in not being tied down to a single computer located somewhere you can’t always access. A notebook works pretty well in that regard, but what happens when that notebook breaks or goes missing? It’s kind of the same feeling as when you lose your wallet or keys. Not a good feeling 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 single. That is one big 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 but want to track your current balances to make sure your cash flow is positive (i.e. you’re not overspending), these tools seem like great tools.
- Use Facebook, LinkedIn or other social networks. These sites provide a powerful place to manage your social and professional life. This includes keeping in touch with family and friends and showing off your photos, to networking with business associates and looking for the 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 look for practical information that I can use every day through consumerist.com and pcmag.com.
Access the “Cloud” from anywhere
Since I’ve moved most of my desktop computing to the cloud, I find that I can access it from any computer and mobile phone. Having your Cloud in your phone, which can search the internet, is a phenomenal tool. If the Palm Pre or iPhone worked with my wireless provider, I’d upgrade and give up my trusty Motorola A1200.
Use the “Cloud”, but back up your critical data
Keep backup copies of your dataespecially the data you need to access your web pages.
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 pages I access in the same place. (I found this to be very handy when I recently changed my email account.) I back up my password file daily to The Cloud using IDrive.com. I also do a monthly backup of the password file to a USB drive that I keep in a fire safe.
Be safe in the “cloud”
The scariest part of moving to the Cloud is about protecting your privacy and keeping your data safe. I’ll admit that I’m still a bit worried about this. Can I really trust Google? Or how about trusting QuickenOnline.com with my financial information? We hear about data breaches every day. Some hacker broke in and stole the personal information of thousands of customers. I have been notified more than once that this has happened at the company I do business with. I currently have free credit monitoring due to a recent incident at an investment company.
I also got a call from my bank asking about my credit card charges. It turned out they were fake and the bank took the charges out of my account. What was interesting was that I had just downloaded my most recent bank transactions into Quicken. I have not seen these false accusations. I immediately resumed my bank transactions. There they are, along with transactions that reverse the charges. My bank detected and reacted very quickly to these illegitimate activities.
My confidence in reasonable cloud security is based on my business over the Internet since the early 1990s when the Internet opened up to commercial sites. The examples with my bank and my investment firm helped me to see that they are proactively trying to minimize the risk of loss. There is no guarantee of safety. However, it is not obvious that your risk of loss is any higher in The Cloud than anywhere else.
“The Cloud” is here and advertising will pay for it
I believe that what we know as personal computing is moving to the cloud. In the near future, we will be much less reliant on a single piece of equipment crammed with expensive software, most of which we will never use.
Of course, like electronic media for decades, this Cloud is powered by advertising. Just like we used to watch TV for free, before cable, and we still listen to the radio for free, that looks like we’re going into an advertising-paid personal computing cloud. A PC will be required to access the Cloud, but your software applications and information will be in the Cloud, not on your PC.
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