Computing in the Virtual Cloud

Cloud computing is a new term and gaining widespread use.  It basically means performing traditional computer processes on machines or servers in a virtual location, or cloud.  Cloud computing means creating, editing, saving, backing up files online without having to have those files or programs located physically on your PC or laptop computer.  This is a great way to access frequently used files from any location, or using any platform – because they are stored online, you could access the same files from your work PC, your home laptop, your iPad, and even your mobile phone.

Cloud computing allows you to work with the same files and programs no matter where you are because they are backed up or transferred to virtual online storage locations.  No more copying in transferring files from work to your laptop PC to your netbook, you’ll always be working off the same set of files and using the same programs all located in the virtual cloud – a remote server accessed through any internet connection worldwide.  Additionally, companies that provide cloud computing services normally also provide robust backup to the cloud.  This means that the files you are working on and saving on these virtual servers, are automatically backed up daily, often incrementally.

Working with Documents and Files in the Cloud

One well-known company has offered cloud computing services that allow you to create, edit, save, retrieve, and share online documents for free.  Google has offered a feature called Google Docs for some time now.  Using Google Docs, you can create and access documents that are fully compatible with Microsoft Office files.  All of your work is performed and saved via the internet browser, and you need nothing installed on your PC other than a connection to the internet.

Additionally, since all of your Google Docs are saved in Google’s virtual cloud servers, they are accessible anywhere in the world so long as you have a live internet connection.  This means easy access from any public computer, Internet cafe, or hotel business center, regardless of whether or not they have the right software installed on their computers, you can access and edit your Google Docs if you are connected to the internet.  Additionally, you can grant access to your Google Docs with persons that you choose, allowing for very easy and flexible collaboration between two or more people or groups.

Backing up your PC to the Cloud

One other convenient feature being offered by cloud computing providers is the ability to back up your desktop or notebook PC automatically over your wireless internet connection, directly to the cloud servers.  This means not having to purchase and install backup or removable hard drives, not having to set up a backup plan, connect the backup hard drives, and toughest of all — actually remembering to manually backup your important files periodically.  For some, this is easy.  For many, however, this is a bridge too far.

Cloud computing makes this entire process seamless.  When choosing to back up to the cloud servers, all you have to do is sign up for the service, then designate which files you want backed up, or you can even choose to back up your entire hard drive.  Then, the cloud backup service will automatically copy and transfer all of those selected files to the cloud servers based on a regular schedule that you have determined.  From that point on, all you have to do is make sure your computer is powered up during the times that you scheduled the automatic backup.  An additional safety feature provided is that all of your files are backed up to a location away from your home.  The industry calls this an “offsite” backup, which means not only are your files backed up to protect you against computer hardware failure, but since your backed up files are located away from your residence, you are also protected against any catastrophic disaster at your residence or business, such as flood or fire.

Accessing the Cloud from your iPhone or Android

Using an online back-up and storage service such as DropBox also grants you cross-platform access to your files.  This means the photos, documents, and other files you upload to the “cloud” can now be accessed by your desktop, laptop, iPhone, Android tablet, or other compatible device.  DropBox has apps for both the iOS and Android platforms which make it seamless to view your files online – it looks just like a virtual folder.  DropBox also has a neat photo auto-sync feature where it automatically synchronizes photos as soon as you take them on your mobile phone and uploads them to your online folder – immediately backing them up!

Having the data stored in the cloud ensures that you have backups of your most important or personal files and also includes old versions of files in case you accidentally update or replace a file. Since the information is stored online, you can access it from any computer that has an Internet connection.

SugarSync is an online service that allows you to set up folders to Sync directly to your online “cloud” storage on its servers. Once you install SugarSync, it automatically adds, deletes, modifies and copies the information to your cloud whenever it changes.  Information on SugarSync can be accessed from your computer or by using the mobile application that provides remote file access. Try SugarSync FREE for 30 days .

A lot of people have many dozens of gigabytes of data today on their hard drives.  Cloud computing can accommodate anybody’s data storage needs from the light user, to the heavy user with a huge capacity required.  Providers such as Carbonite offer limitless storage for a low monthly fee.  Start your Carbonite free trial today!   Other cloud backup sercices include Rack Space and Amazon.

Cloud computing offers you the versatility, persistent access to your data, and safe backup solutions.  More and more companies are providing robust services through the virtual cloud offering one more option for you to consider.

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