Making your files cloudy

October 5, 2009 at 6:25 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

cloud

You would think cloud computing would be easier in Seattle, but that’s a lame joke, and I would never say it.

A friend pointed me to a pretty cool application today called Dropbox.  I don’t work for them or anything, so I’m not trying to sell you something (and it’s free).  When you install it, the program creates a folder on your computer called “My Dropbox”.  Whenever you’re online, Dropbox automatically uploads the contents of that folder onto their servers.  When you install Dropbox on multiple computers, the folder is shared between your PCs and your files are automatically kept in sync.  It’s sort of magical, and it’s a perfect solution for those of us, like myself, who have a desktop computer at home and a laptop they take to school.

Dropbox is a good example of a big tech trend called cloud computing.  Computers keep getting faster and hard drives keep getting bigger, but there are a few problems with doing everything on a personal computer.  That single hard drive, for instance, might take all your important files with it when it decides to die, or you could lose sensitive data if your computer is stolen.  There’s also quite a bit of processing power that goes, for the most part, unused.  Thanks to today’s much faster internet speeds, however, there’s a way to fix that.

Essentially, cloud computing involves building server farms – basically big warehouses stuffed with computers, and very few ploughs and oxen – and using them to provide tons of processing power and safe, backed-up storage.  The server farm is called the “cloud”.   When you use a cloud, you can replace your single PC that stores all of your data and does all of your processing with a less powerful (and more portable) personal computer that simply serves as a way to get on the internet and use the cloud.

A really popular form of cloud computing is online email services like Gmail, which let you access email from anywhere and keep it backed up.  Google Docs (and soon, apparently, Microsoft Office Online) let you do all of your document and spreadsheet editing on the cloud.  On the professional side, Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud allows you to run things on their servers so you don’t have to maintain your own.

It’s pretty nifty.  I’m staring at my laptop and waiting for the day when it’ll turn into an internet-enabled sheet of glass.

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