Carrying your files around with you is dumb.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


How to take advantage of The Cloud

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, The Post-Standard

   Storing your stuff in The Cloud makes sense in today's mobile world. The Cloud -- the Internet and all its connected feeder networks -- is accessible from anywhere, as long as your computer, smartphone or iPad has an Internet connection.
   (We covered the basics of The Cloud last week. It's indexed on my website, www.technofileonline.com.)
   Carrying your files around with you is dumb. Pardon my candor, but the world is changing, and we're not going to be able to take advantage of these changes unless we hop on the bus.
   But how do we do that? Maybe the question's unfair. Most of us already use The Cloud in one way or another. All we need is a little encouragement to use it more.
   For example, you're using The Cloud if you use web mail in any form -- Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Hotmail, to name just three. Your mail in this case isn't stored on your computer, smartphone or iPad; it's kept on the company's computers far away. They're called servers.
   And, of course you're using The Cloud when you're doing anything with your web browser. If I send you a link to a video on YouTube and you click on it, you end up watching the video in your web browser, but the video itself is on a distant server, in The Cloud. (Your browser might make a temporary copy of that video on your computer, smartphone or iPad, but it's tossed out as soon as possible. The notion of using a temporary copy stored in a cache is a remnant of archaic computing methods, and it will go away before long.)
   But you can harness The Cloud in many other ways. You can store your important documents there. If you use Google Documents, everything you create, change, edit, process, dice and slice is in The Cloud. The files are compatible with Microsoft Office, too -- and you don't need Microsoft Office at all. Get started with Google Documents by opening the main Google page and clicking "More" at the top. You'll see the link.
   Not that I'm a Google freak (and, well, not that I'm not), but there's another Google service in The Cloud. It's the company's photo albums, which you can create through Picasa or iPhoto. Anybody with a web browser can view your photos, which are all stored in The Cloud. (Picasa Web, as it's called, makes a great photo backup, too.)
   Address books, calendars and personal schedulers are abundant in The Cloud -- search Google for WEB-BASED CALENDAR, for example -- and the ease with which you can read them or add to them is a huge plus for Cloud-based systems. Google has a great calendar that can be synchronized with your laptop or iPad, no matter where you are.
   Synchronization (making everything match on multiple systems) is easy for data other than calendars. I use the free Dropbox, from www.dropbox.com. It sets up a storage location (with folders and files) in The Cloud, where you can create, edit and copy the contents from any of your devices. It works with Macs, the iPad and Windows and Linux PCs.