My 6/14/09 Missoulian column
Last week, Google introduced a new service called Wave, which helps introduce users to “cloud computing.” Using the “cloud” for your work is one of the directions Google is moving, and it could be one of the next big things on the Internet.
Traditionally, your data have been on your PC or your Mac, i.e. in different files and formats in your pictures and documents folders on your hard drive. The programs you use, too, are on your local computer.
But the desire to work anywhere – away from your home PC – along with the connectivity of the Internet has led to a push toward cloud computing.
The big difference between using your PC and cloud computing is your data and programs aren’t on your home hard drive – they’re everywhere, on the servers of the Internet service you’re using. Your data are split up and scattered all over, and backed up, as well. The programs you use are exactly the same as other people who are in the cloud, too.
You may already be working in the cloud without realizing it. For example, if you use Gmail, your e-mail isn’t solely on your own PC or Mac – it’s somewhere among the millions of other accounts somewhere in the world on Google’s servers. Free blogging services store your Web pages and blog posts in the cloud.
The big advantage to working in the cloud is that your information – and everyone else who you’re collaborating with – is in the cloud, too, so you can get to it from anywhere.
You don’t have to have knowledge of how the Internet or the cloud works or be concerned about where and how your data are stored.
However, there are privacy concerns, both where and how your data are stored in the cloud, and how securely you retrieve it if working over Wi-Fi.
But what if you could keep all your files in the cloud, rather than at home or on a flash drive or laptop have to you carry around? What if you did all of your work in the cloud from a tiny smart phone or small laptop made just for cloud computing? That desire might make cloud computing one of the next big things on the Internet.