The Cloudy Future of Computing
“The Cloud” Defined
A cloud—a mass of water drops or ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere. This was probably the definition we were all use to hearing in science class back in elementary school. But in the past 10 years or so, the term “cloud” as garnered a much more different meaning—one that is more technology related. The word “cloud” (or “The Cloud”) is often used as a metaphor for “the Internet.” The Cloud simply refers to software and services that run on the Internet, rather than operating locally on your computer. Most cloud services can be accessed through a Web browser such as Firefox or Google Chrome. Likewise, the phrase “cloud computing” means a type of Internet-based computing, where servers, storage, and applications, are delivered to an organization’s computers and devices through the Internet.
Popular Cloud-Based Services
There are a myriad of cloud-based services offered today, but very few are used regularly by businesses and everyday people. For this reason, I have identified three of the, in my opinion, most popular and well-integrated cloud-based services in the market.
Dropbox is a personal cloud storage service that is frequently used for file sharing and collaboration. Dropbox allows its users to easily store and share videos, documents, and photos, and enables access to such files from essentially any device, anywhere. An obvious alternative to Dropbox is an external hard drive, but these are often clunky, susceptible to physical damage, limited in storage capacity, and must be carried with you if you want file access outside of your home or office. Thus, here is what Dropbox has to offer compared to its alternatives such as external hard drives:
- Accessibility—You can access your files almost anywhere in the world, as as long as you have an internet connection. However, even if you are not connected, you can still retrieve and edit files offline—the next time you gain internet access, the content of your Dropbox folder will then sync with other devices.
- Easy file sharing—Using Dropbox, you can easily share a Dropbox folder to one or more of your contacts without worrying about the size of its contents. Thus, if you want to share a video, a picture, or a set of documents, your contact can easily view what was sent by just checking the file folder.
- Document backup—Dropbox securely backs up your work, so you don’t have to worry about ever losing it. In fact, by default, Dropbox saves a history of all deleted and earlier versions of files for 30 days.
G Suite (formerly Google Apps)
G Suite is a brand of cloud computing, productivity, and collaboration tools developed by Google. G Suite is comprised of applications such as Gmail, Calendar, and Google+ for communication; Drive for storage; and Docs, Sheets, and Slides for collaboration. There are many alternatives to G Suite, especially its Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets applications. The most notable offline alternatives to these apps are Microsoft Office’s Word, Powerpoint, and Excel. However, unlike G Suite, the Microsoft Office applications listed above are costly, and are not directly connected to the Internet or the Cloud. Thus, here is what G Suite has to offer compared to its alternatives:
- Convenience—Need access to a file while you are on a business trip halfway across the world? No problem. With G Suite, you can seamlessly access your files via a mobile phone, tablet, desktop computer, or notebook—just as long as you have Internet access.
- Free off site back-up—Losing work while using a G Suite application such as Google Docs is nearly impossible. With a built-in, robust auto-save feature, many G Suite apps provide automated backup for documents and files as they are edited.
- Simplified Collaboration—Applications such as Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides provide teams with the ability to collaborate on the same document at the same time. By clicking on a specified URL, two or more users can work on the same document and view each other’s changes as they are happening in near real time, making collaboration easy.
Skype is a collaboration-focused web application that provides video chat and voice call services. In addition, users may also exchange digital documents such as images, text, and video, which are all stored in the Cloud for future retrieval. An offline alternative to Skype is the hosting of onsite, in-person meetings, however these meetings can be inconvenient and difficult to schedule (especially if a large number of people are involved). Thus, here is what Skype has to offer compared to in-person meetings:
- A Variety of Collaborative Features-—The beauty of Skype is that it allows its users to hold collaborative events, such as meetings or presentations, all in a digital environment, so no travelling is necessary. With the click of a button, you can easily hold a video conference call with your co-worker, share a word document with your classmate, or give a presentation using the screen-sharing feature.
- Flexibility—Skype is versatile and flexible, as it can be accessed on just about any device, as long the device is connected to the Internet. This means that you can access Skype on your tablet, laptop, or mobile phone, allowing you to hold or participate in meetings and group conversations anywhere, anytime. You also have the option of using either your voice, face, or written words to communicate with those involved in the conversation.
- Easy Communication—With Skype, you will never have to worry about not being able to communicate with your international friend or foreign colleague again. Skype’s online translator can help you communicate in 8 languages for voice calls, and in more than 50 languages while instant messaging. In addition, Skype Translator uses machine learning, so the more you use it, the better it gets.
So there you have it. Three of the most popular cloud-based services that are currently available for public use. Chances are high that you have used (or still use) at least one of the services listed above. But don’t get too comfortable with them just yet. At the rate technology is advancing, who knows what application or service will take over the Web next. There is one thing for sure though—the future of computing is quite cloudy.