When you hear someone talk about “cloud computing,” do you have the faintest idea what they are talking about or do you even care?
Briefly, cloud computing is using computer tools or services that are not installed on your computer but are available for your use at any time and for almost any reason you choose. That is about as close as I can come to telling you what cloud computing is and even that definition does not cover all aspects of this rapidly expanding trend.
So why should you care? There are some awesome benefits to cloud computing that you need to know about both from a security standpoint and a fun standpoint.
One day, you will go to check your email and your computer will fail you. It is a fact of life that every product manufactured has a life expectancy built in, and one day, it will reach the end of its usefulness or operability and fail.
As sad as that may sound, we need to protect ourselves from that moment of panic and grief by backing up our data.
I used to think portable backup devices were the way to go, but after having to replace my portable backup every few years, I went in search of a more reliable solution.
Online backup solutions like Carbonite and others are the most preferred way of backing up and saving your data. Your pictures, emails and personal documents are encrypted and saved every night in multiple locations, so if one location has a catastrophic fire or other problems, your data is still safe.
When the tragedy of 9/11 occurred, the image of thousands of papers flying all over everywhere denoted hundreds of businesses going down the drain because they did not have a cloud backup.
Portable hard drives are still good, and I do use a few of them for my most irreplaceable data, but a good cloud backup solution is easy, secure and removes the human element of “I forgot.” Apple iCloud is a prime example of cloud computing storage.
A lot of people use their computer to create greeting cards, posters, graphics of all sort and many other similar things. The programs to create these masterpieces can be rather costly to buy and install on your computer.
It seems like every year, software companies come out with a new program that does more, but the upgrade is expensive and hard to install on your computer. Cloud computing has a solution for that. Adobe, along with many other software manufacturers, now have a type of rental system where you have all of their programs available to you at any time in exchange for a low annual price.
In creating my wife’s DVDs, I use Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Audition, Adobe Encore and a few other Adobe programs that would cost me thousands of dollars to purchase separately and then I still would have to pay for an Adobe Acrobat program to create secure .pdf files.
However, for just $53 a year, I have access to all of these state-of-the-art programs plus any other Adobe program, and any updates are free! After enrolling in their cloud computing service, there is a small program to download and install on my computer and I have instant access to any Adobe product made. How cool is that?
If the time comes when we no longer need any of these programs, we simply cancel our enrollment. Adobe is just one example; there are hundreds of popular manufacturers who have similar programs for all types of business and personal uses.
When was the last time you were trying to fix something and wished you had a diagram or exploded view? Almost every company has user manuals online for immediate download and also may have YouTube videos to help you perform basic and advanced maintenance and repairs on their products.
This is a type of cloud computing that is essential for all of the do-it-yourself people who love to take things apart but find the reassembly very challenging. These companies store their manuals and video in the cloud for your convenience and also to reduce customer service staffing costs.
The future of cloud computing is only limited by our imagination. Using mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, you can now comparison-shop for best prices at a multitude of stores while never leaving your home or if you find an item you cannot live without in one store, you can shop for a lower price at another store on your phone before you check out.
You can comparison-shop for a car online or features of a product or whatever feature is most important to you. Anyone can share documents, photos and other data on places like DropBox, Google Docs or any of a hundred or so data storages places.
You can interact with your friends, kids and grandkids on Facebook or other social networking sites. The list of cloud solutions is endless and growing.
• Mike Smothers is president of Smothers Computer Services, based in Ahwatukee Foothills. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (480) 753-7667.