Das Cloud: How I Learned to Ditch the Local and Love the Cloud
Well, obviously the title is a close derivative of the big master’s great movie, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. I hope he forgives me for butchering it for our “ed-techy” purposes.
Being a Windows user for almost 15 years now, I have easily learned not to have any emotional attachments with my operating system, or the files on my harddrive, as frequent crashes were inevitable in the early versions of the OS. It was fine, I didn’t have any important files that I needed to guard with my life back then, so everytime the OS crashed, well, I reinstalled it. What was more, I formatted my harddrive as we all know that gives a subtle speed boost to your system, only discernible by a geek. Many times, during the formatting process I would remember I had left a file on my harddisk that I should have backed up, but it wasn’t a big deal, until I started college.
During college, my homeworks, assignments, lesson plans, etc. gained utmost importance and keeping those files safe was a big deal, especially considering the fact that floppy disks are not the most reliable media when it comes to data storage. I remember how frustrating it would get when I went to my training school and the floppy didn’t work and I couldn’t print out my lesson plan and worksheets.
Where am I going with this? Here is what I experienced about a month ago. I have been using the cloud extensively for almost 2 years now, including email. The services I use include a online document editor, RSS feed reader, a file storage service, bookmark sync service and email. Being an early adapter, I got a release candidate copy of Windows 7 and found myself installing it onto my main machine, rookie mistake, but that’s how you learn. Long story short, during the installation process an unexpected error occurred and I had to use my recovery disks. That wasn’t a bright idea, as it returned the machine to its factory defaults, meaning that it formatted my harddrive completely, merging the partitions. You can only imagine the extent of photographs, music and documents it erased. A lot. I had my music backed up, docs were backed up a month before the incident, so not a big loss there, and photos were either on the camera or backed up, phew. But, in that instant I realized apart from these three, I wasn’t worried about anything else. I never worried about losing my email. Or my rss feed news. Or my documents I share with my colleagues on that cloud service. Even the bookmarks I had created over the years were safe and retaining them was a matter of seconds. What a relief is that. So, since then I have another level of appreciation for the cloud.
One more advantage, I started to realize was how seamlessly I was able to use multiple machines without worrying about transferring files across them. The crazy thing is, we had been doing this all our lives with email. It had never occurred to me that I never put my email to a USB drive and carry with me. I would simply use any computer on earth to connect to my inbox, compose and send emails. Well, the cloud computing was just that. I start reading my RSS feeds on my computer (unread feed count 100), read 10 of them. Go out, go to school, connect to my RSS feed reader and continue reading (unread feed count 90, if the feeds I am following does not insanely publish 100 articles in that short amount of tim). I just continue my life. Never worry about carrying a USB stick, my laptop, anything.
I know this is an overly-optimistic piece about cloud computing, online storage and document sharing and there are many problems, privacy being one of them. Probably they would make a longer piece than this one. My point here is how we stopped worrying about sticking to one computer, one harddrive and made our computing experience “universal.” Let alone all this, I think just the fact that you can share a document online with friends and not get email attachments all time with every minute change is worth championing this cloud computing trend.
P.S. Thanks to the cloud (wordpress this time) , again, I was able to craft this post on two different machines.
For a detailed definition and types of cloud computing, you can check out the following page: http://blog.rightscale.com/2008/05/26/define-cloud-computing/