2.05.2011

stratus, cumulus, or wall cloud?

I imagine this whole cloud thing is confusing when you're used to just turning on your computer and doing your stuff and moving on.  In reality, you already know what it's all about.  Here's what I mean.

First, let me explain the reason it's called "the cloud".  For a long time, networking guys and gals who make computers on college and business campuses talk to each, have referred to everything outside the building network as, the cloud.  And the big secret is, the cloud, is the internet.   Moving to the cloud, is the same as moving to the internet; and it's not that hard.

Here are some common tasks you use your computer for, that are already 'in the cloud'.

If you take pictures of your cat, or your kid, or your car, you have probably always put those pictures in a folder on your desktop to edit, and then uploaded them to a place on the internet like an email, or Facebook, to share them with your friends, family, or car club.  If you've ever taken a picture with your cell phone and shared it on Twitter, Facebook, Picasa, or Flickr, you're already using the internet to store and share your photos.  All of those pictures can then be edited with an online service like Picnik or Aviary.  Using these cloud based services, you do not need your documents folder and that horrible software that came with your camera, to save those pictures and edit that weird guy at your office out of the Christmas party photos.  You can upload the pictures directly to Picnik, edit weird guy out, and then immediately share that photo with your coworkers via email and add them to your Facebook at the same time, with one click.

Whenever you log into GMail, Hotmail, Yahoo!Mail, or your work webmail website, you're already using a cloud based email client. Before webmail services offered features like archiving your old bill payment confirmation emails into folders and filtering rules so you can automatically delete those annoying 'Fwd: Fwd: Fw:' emails from your cousin, we had to use software on our computers to do all of this.  Now with services like Facebook and Linkedin, you can also keep in touch with your friends and family without ever installing any software on your computer.  The nice thing about this, is that you can login to those websites from your home computer, your work computer, your friends computer, or even your cell phone, and still see all the same options and view as you do on your laptop sitting on your comfy couch at home.  The magic of the cloud.

Another less common example of a cloud service that a lot of people use, but some people do not know that much about is Google Docs.  Microsoft also now offers an online document editing and saving service they call Office Web Apps for Hotmail and Live.com users.  The nice thing about these services is that not only can you login and create a new spreadsheet of your budget, or gather notes for the lesson you've been asked to speak on at church, you can also upload your current spreadsheet or document so that you can access it from your home computer, friends computer, or your cell phone, anytime, anywhere.  Now the value of using this free software that is available 'in the cloud', really starts showing it's value to your life on the go.

Now that you have an idea of what the cloud is, do you feel like your floating above the sea, or trying to find the lighthouse through the fog?

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