When you were little your parents may have told you that your head was in the clouds. Little did they know just how literal this phrase might become. Today’s Internet is becoming increasigly focused on cloud computing, and it is turning information into an artifact that is at once easier to use and more difficult to wield.
Social implications aside, there is something damned nifty about being able to store data in one remote location and access it anywhere else. That is the inherit usefulness that makes cloud computing attractive even to individuals. Most of us are no longer using just one-device but rather an array of devices including desktop and laptop PCs, tablets, smartphones, and etc.
So, let’s take a look at three of the best cloud computing applications.
There has been a lot of press surrounding Dropbox lately, and most of it has been good. As much as I like to provide alternative viewpoints, I don’t think that any round up of the best cloud computing applications would be complete without Dropbox.
When you install Dropbox a new type of folder – creatively named a Dropbox folder – is created on your computer. Anything you stick in that folder is placed into the Dropbox cloud. If you have other devices with Dropbox installed they also will have Dropbox folders, and the changes you make on any one device is reflected on all devices. Better yet, you can access the files from a web browser and share them with friends.
Dropbox works on numerous devices. Both PC and Mac computers can use Dropbox, as can iPhones, iPads, Android phones. Their website lists support for Blackberry as “coming soon.”
There is a downside to Dropbox. If you keep your Dropbox storage under 2GB, then you can use it for free. However, if you need more storage you have to pay for it. 50GB will cost you $9.99 a month, while 100GB costs $19.99 a month. I’ve always found these monthly subscription rates for services that provide online storage outragesous, and Dropbox is no exception.
Still, 2GB will store a lot of photos and documents, so most users won’t have a problem keeping under the 2GB limit.
Windows Live Sync
The objective of Windows Live Sync is, on the surface, very similar to Dropbox. Windows Live Sync wants to help you keep files synced among multiple devices, and it does it by letting you designate shared folders on your computer.
However, the method used by Live Sync is much different from other cloud computing applications in that there is no actual cloud server. When you sync computers using Live Sync, the information they have is not stored in the memory of any third party server. Instead, each computer with Live Sync monitors the informaton kept in the synced folder of other computers. If the folder on any one computer is changed, the changes are reflected in the other synced computers. You can also browse and any file on synced computers through a web browser. The end result is similar to Dropbox, but there is no cloud server involved.
Compared to Dropbox, Live Sync has a major advantage because there is no storage limit. Your information is stored in a cloud, but the cloud is made up only of your computers. Live Sync is harder to use, however, due to a confusing web interface. Live Sync also only supports PCs and Macs.
This Mac and iPhone-only cloud computing application is geared towards people who love social media and want to engage with it as easily as possible. It is built around the idea that you should be able to quickly send any information to the cloud, at which point the information can be easily shared with others.
When you install CloudApp a new cloud icon appear on the Mac interface in the upper right corner. If you want to send a file to the cloud you simply need to drag-and-drop the file on to the cloud icon. It will be automatically uploaded to your CloudApp cloud storage. It is also possible to take screenshots of your display and send them to CloudApp. Management of your cloud storage is done entirely through a web interface.
Everything you upload to CloudApp is given a relatively short URL address, the purpose of which is to make sharing the file easy. Just copy-and-paste into Twitter, Facebook, or whatever social media outlet you like to use. Now your friends can access the file.
There is no storage limit, although that does not seem likely to last forever. Despite the lack of storage limit, CloudApp is unlike the other cloud computing applications here in that it is not really geared towards long-term storage. The interface can become bulky if you have too many files. CloudApp is really about here-and-now sharing with friends.
These are not the only worthwhile cloud applications out there, but they are my favorite. Personally, I use Windows Live Sync most frequently, because I do not mind the more confusing interface and I having my own “personal” cloud.