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Technology Untangled: Cloud computing - a glimpse from the cloud

Stephen Bour
October 26, 2011
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technology-bourToday we will take a few glimpses of how “cloud” computing is changing the way you use your computer and other wireless devices. Included are several examples of how you can take advantage of cloud computing technology.

What is cloud computing, and just what is the cloud? In simple terms, cloud computing is Internet-assisted computing. This means that much of what once took place within your own physical computer instead takes place external to it via a connection to the Internet. Data and file storage, documents, photos and music all reside with Web-based services and can be accessed when needed through the Web. In many ways, it is as if your computer is operating through an unlimited, interconnected, external hard drive. With the cloud, software and programs do not have to be loaded on your local computer. Instead, they reside externally and are supplied to you as services.

The cloud is a metaphor representing the vast pool of service and data that you reach out to and access as needed. All of it is meant to be rather transparent in a manner similar to how we simply plug in and use electricity from the electrical grid.

Earlier this year, I wrote an article about an Internet-based file storage service called Dropbox. It allows you to store and share files between computers all while keeping each computer synchronized with the latest revision of each document. Although I didn’t use the term at the time, this was an example of cloud computing.

You may already be using cloud computing without realizing it. Web-based email systems like Hotmail and Gmail are good examples of cloud computing. The email software and your messages themselves are stored “in the cloud” external to your computer or smartphone, but they can be accessed and manipulated through any Internet connection.

Google Docs is another interesting cloud-based example of software as a service. Google Docs is an office suite package that allows you to create, store and share documents, spreadsheets and presentations online and to collaborate and edit with others in real time. The documents can be accessed from any computer or smartphone and the latest revision is always kept in sync with everyone in the workgroup. See docs.google.com/ for more details.

Google has a companion cloud application called Google Cloud Print. I learned more about it recently when I purchased a Kodak inkjet printer. This printer connects to my network and to the Internet via Wi-Fi. Since the printer is Web-enabled, Cloud Print allows me to print to this printer from anywhere using my laptop, smartphone or tablet. I can share the printer with anyone I choose and have them send documents directly to the printer via the Web as simply as if it were another printer on my office network. See google.com/cloudprint/learn/ for more details.

Another cloud-related but more direct method to print to this Kodak printer is via email. Setup of the printer includes assigning it its own email address. Then from any email application, you can mail and print both the body and the attachments of an email directly to the printer. Learn more at kodakeprint.com. Many other printer brands are now including these cloud-enabled features, so watch for them when shopping for your next printer.

Apple’s recent introduction of the iPhone 4S has brought a renewed buzz to cloud computing. Through Apple’s new iCloud online storage, you can now sync all your data and photos, music and more between all your Apple devices. All of your information can be shared, backed up, and synchronized through one central Apple storage server in the cloud.

Amazon Cloud Drive storage and the Amazon Cloud Player have been ahead of Apple in this respect. I recently signed up with Amazon to buy some music, and the default setting for storage of the music I purchased was on their cloud drive. My entire music collection can be stored and streamed from the cloud. I am able to access it from any computer or Internet connected device. This means I can listen to my music on my smartphone, my home computer, my work computer and even a friend’s computer. All this takes place without ever having to locally save an MP3 file or transfer it from one device to another.

For business applications, Amazon Cloud Drive storage can also be used for files other than music. See amazon.com/clouddrive/learnmore for details. For more cloud player info, Google the term “Amazon Cloud Player” or go to amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=2658409011.

I still have my reservations about the security of cloud computing and whether it is something bulletproof enough to use for your sensitive legal documents. This concern is from the viewpoints of both security as well as reliability. Amazon makes no promises that it will never lose your music collection (or your litigation files!). I expect hackers will take a much greater interest in attacking the cloud now that Apple has entered the scene with its iCloud service and the millions of users it will attract. Cloud computing is a technology that is here to stay, but proceed with caution.•


Stephen Bour (bourtech@iquest.net) is an engineer and legal technology consultant in Indianapolis. His company, the Alliance for Litigation Support Inc., includes Bour Technical Services and Alliance Court Reporting. Areas of service include legal videography, tape analysis, document scanning to CD and courtroom presentation support. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s.
 

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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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