More and more systems have turned to cloud computing to reduce hardware requirements and improve access, convenience, and speed. As a result, the phrase the cloud has become an everyday part of our vocabulary. But just what is cloud computing, and why is it so popular? What does the advent of this technology mean for us? Will it become as big a phenomenon as the iPhone, or will it be more like Bing – known by all, but only used by some?
What is Cloud Computing?
Simply defined, cloud computing is a form of data processing that’s been around since the 1950’s, but the service is provided over a network rather than via computer hardware. That allows for a lighter computer experience, certainly lighter than the thousands of pounds of machinery that made up the first computers. A well-known version of cloud computing is the VPN, or Virtual Private Network, which originated with the telecommunications industry and connected users to a shared network instead of directly to another user.
Today, cloud computing is a common component of modern life. Nearly every major technological system seems to use some type of cloud computing. Apple’s iCloud is a popular example. It allows users to dump music, videos, and other large files offsite without concern about filling up a hard drive. Ummm, but there was that recent scandal involving hacking and naked pictures …
Dropbox is an online cloud-based application that lets you save, share, and store files. Once your files are there, you can sync all your devices – Kindle, computer, phone, tablet, etc. – and retrieve these files from anywhere, at any time, as long as you have Internet access. Not only that, you can designate who can see your files, photos, and documents, and share these things with friends, family, and editors. Other than your designated shares, your files are private, and you control who can see them.
Dropbox is a writer’s productivity booster. You can work from anywhere, on any device, whenever you find yourself with unexpected time. Best of all? If your computer dies, your files are safe. It’s an auto-backup system that ensures you’ll never misplace or delete your precious, irreplaceable manuscripts. SkyDrive, SugarSync, Box.net, and Google Drive are examples of other cloud-based storage applications. I prefer Dropbox because it’s simple and easy to use.
Point of sale systems
Point of Sale (POS) systems are another major beneficiary of cloud computing. These technologies provide small business owners with a mobile cash register – think authors selling books at festivals and other venues – where a traditional checkout line is not an option. For example, Shopify introduced a line of iPad card readers that connect to tablets and allow sellers to scan all major credit cards from wherever, making it easier for individual sellers to meet the customer halfway.
Accounting and tax return computing
Another benefit of cloud computing can be found in financial management and tax software. Intuit, the creator of QuickBooks, has taken to the cloud and now offers a wide range of tax and financial management software that is cloud-based and secure. Just like the Internet, cloud computing is a simple system that can be utilized in a number of different ways.
Readers, how do you use “the cloud?” What’s your favorite cloud-based application? Please leave a comment and share!
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