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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. My mother got temporary guardianship of my children in 2012. my husband and I got divorced 2015 the judge ordered me to have full custody of all my children. Does this mean the temporary guardianship is over? I'm confused because my divorce papers say I have custody and he gets visits and i get to claim the kids every year on my taxes. So just wondered since I have in black and white that I have custody if I can go get my kids from my moms and not go to jail?

  2. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  3. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

  4. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  5. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

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