This post is sponsored by:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Get Your Head IN The Clouds: Cloud Computing and It's Benefits

I love the new Microsoft ads with the line 'to the cloud'.  I keep saying that at work and when no one knows what I am talking about and look at me like I have two heads (actually that's common when I say most things), I realize not too many people watch commercials anymore do they?  Anyway, 'cloud computing' is becoming more and more common.  Most people are even using computers this way without even realizing it.  Take, for example, your email.  The invention of web mail was a major step towards 'cloud computing'.  In the early days email was always delivered to a computer and read through software on your computer.  In the mid 1990's email began being accessed and read by visiting a web page such as Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, Gmail, your Internet provider, etc..  The message is stored on a remote server and we access our messages from any computer connected to the Internet.  Today people are storing photographs, documents, files, etc. online more and more while realizing huge benefits for accessibility and sharing with others.  Let's take a look at some real world benefits to working 'in the cloud'.

Over a year ago I began participating on our Church Parish Council.  Many of the topics we discussed and challenges we faced had one common theme . . . communication barriers and breakdowns.  When I began looking at this in detail, I began seeing that we relied heavily on a weekly bulletin to deliver information and found volunteer groups busily trying to track down documents or contacts someone else had for their group.  We had a website, but updates required contacting one person who has a busy full-time job and couldn't always get around to updating the information.  So we began seeking out a solution to 1) bringing everything back 'under one roof', 2) improving the efficiency of communication, and 3) reducing costs.  And, yes, we found all three . . . in 'the cloud'.

Myself and our website designer took a serious look at Google Apps.  With the Standard version we were able to have 50 users (both staff and select ministries) and provide them with branded email and suite of online software such as calendars, contacts, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and website hosting.  All for about $10/year.  We get some huge benefits from this type of system and it's evolving all the time:
  1. Our 'Welcome Booklet' is stored online, is accessible by clicking a link on the website, and can be updated easily in the background without ever having to do anything to the website.  
  2. The website is actually updated by multiple people who know nothing about websites.  We use embedded calendars through Google Apps that volunteers access and update within the system as a user.
  3. With user accounts for specific ministries, we began storing documents and contacts for those groups online.  They can access from any internet connected computer all of this information without having to go looking for it.  Plus transition to new members is far easier as all they need to be given is the access information.  
  4. Volunteers can help from home.  I get website and prayer requests into my email box and can quickly make the necessary updates and changes within a few minutes. 
  5. And more is coming.  
Click here to read about Cloud Computing
from Google's '20 Things . . . ' online book.
We are finding new ways to use this each and every day.  It's the same system I transitioned my wife's Real Estate business over to just before the Church.  We don't store all information for her business 'in the cloud', but core things we do which is a huge benefit in the case a computer goes down.  Plus it allows us to better collaborate on things.  I work a FT job as well and coordinating schedules isn't always easy.  So we share our calendars through this system and my existing Gmail account.  When either of us add something to our calendars whether through our computer or on our Android phones, it is immediately updated for the other person.  Enter-once-use-everywhere.  Love it.  This blog is also a 'cloud' collaboration.  I can start a post from any internet connected computer, and finish it on any other while collaborating on the topics through another 'cloud' based system.

Security and reliability are always a concern.  A few years ago Yahoo was offering a great online photo storage service that was unlimited and allowed for easily ordering prints from a local Target or CVS store.  The problem came in when Yahoo shut the service down and getting all of those photos back.  So keep a backup and insure you can always get a copy of your information.

2010 has definitely been a year for major advancements in mobile computing and online social networking.  2011 in my opinion is going to be a year for huge advancements in 'cloud' computing.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Sponsored by: