Home computers in “The Cloud”

The trends make me think that the computing we’re doing at home will soon be predominantly “in The Cloud.” This means that the applications we use and rely on every day are not found on our home computer but in an application on the Internet and access to your browser.

Move yourself to the “cloud”

Many people have already done so. Here are some of the typical things others have done and what you can do to change yourself:

  1. Use Google Docs as your basic productivity tools. Not only are they very effective and free tools, but they are online and accessible wherever you go (docs.google.com). You don’t have to buy Microsoft Office or even download the free Open Office at OpenOffice.org. I find that on my six year old PC, Google Docs will launch an application (e.g. Docs, Sheets, GMail, etc.) in The Cloud faster than I can launch a Microsoft Office product (e.g. Word , Excel, Outlook, etc.).) On my PC. There’s also the freedom of not being tied to the one PC that sits somewhere you can’t always access it. A notebook works pretty well in this regard, but what happens when the laptop breaks down or is missing? It feels kind of the same as when you lose your wallet or your keys. It does not feel good at all. With home computing in The Cloud, losing your equipment is a problem, but a little of what you had been working on is lost.
  2. Use Mint.com, Quickenonline.com or other online financial tracking software. First, they are currently free. That’s a big advantage. In my opinion, they are not as good as an installed program like Quicken, at least not yet. However, if you do nothing but want to track your current balances to make sure your cash flow is positive (i.e. not excess), these will look like good tools.
  3. Use Facebook, LinkedIn or other social networking sites. These sites provide a powerful place to manage your social and professional life. This includes keeping in touch with family and friends and displaying your photos, staying networked with business associates and looking for the next great opportunity.
  4. Get your news from CNN.com, USAToday.com or get more focused news of interest from more specialized sites. For example, I pour through customerist.com and pcmag.com for practical information I can use every day.

Access the “Cloud” everywhere

Because I’ve moved a lot of my mainstream computing to The Cloud, I find that I can access it from almost any PC and from my mobile phone. Having my cloud in my phone, which can surf the Internet, is a phenomenal tool. If Palm Pre or iPhone were to work with my wireless service provider, I would upgrade and abandon my trusty Motorola A1200.

Use “Cloud” but back up your critical data

Save backups of your data, especially data you need to access your sites on the web.

For passwords, I use Password Safe, which is free from sourceforge.net. This way I have all my passwords somewhere. That is why I also have all these key websites that I have access to in this same place. (This, I discovered, was very handy when I recently changed my email account.) I back up my password file every day to The Cloud using IDrive.com. I also make a monthly backup of the password file for a USB drive, which I keep in a fire safe.

Be Safe in the “Cloud”

The scariest part of moving to the cloud is about protecting your privacy and the security of your information. I admit that this still worries me a bit. Can I really trust Google? Or how about trusting QuickenOnline.com with my financial data? We hear about data breaches every day. Some hackers broke in and stole personal information from thousands of customers. I have been informed more than once that this has happened at a company with which I do business. I have free credit monitoring right now due to a recent incident at an investment firm.

I have also been called by my bank and asked for fees on my credit card. They turned out to be fraudulent and the bank removed the fees from my account. What was interesting is that I had just downloaded my latest bank transactions to Quicken. I did not see these fraudulent charges. I immediately made another download of my bank transactions. There they were, along with transactions that turned costs down. My bank had discovered and reacted very quickly to these bogus activities.

My confidence in reasonable security in The Cloud is based on my business over the Internet since the early 1990s, when the Internet opened for commercial sites. The examples with my bank and with my investment company have helped to reassure me that they are proactively trying to minimize the risk of loss. There is no guarantee of security. However, it is not obvious that your risk of loss is greater in The Cloud than it is elsewhere.

The “cloud” is here, and advertising is paying for it

I think what we know as personal computing is moving into the cloud. In the near future, we will have much less confidence in a single piece of equipment packed with lots of expensive software, much of which we will never use.

Like the broadcast media for decades, this cloud is controlled by advertising. So like we once watched TV for free, before cable, and still listening to radio for free Looks like we’re going for a personal computing Cloud paid for by advertising. The personal computer is required to access The Cloud, but your software programs and information will be in The Cloud and not on your personal computer.