What is ‘the cloud’?

Have you heard about the cloud? If you’re confused by cloud computing, here is a quick explanation, some of my experiences and some resources to help.

If you’ve ever uploaded a document to share with someone else over GoogleDocs, or read a file via Dropbox, you’ve started to use cloud computing. According to Wikipedia, cloud computing is when “shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a metered service over a network (typically the Internet).” It is ideal if you work from home and want to share documents with others, and if you run a business it has lots of advantages too. As one example, cloud hosting can be more reliable and provide a faster response time than using a shared server. With Cloud Hosting, using a cloud of servers can protect your site from downtime. Having backups for your business on the cloud can help with business continuity and disaster recovery.

Recently I’ve been trying out a printer with the capability to print ‘from the cloud’. This means you can print from the next room, without a wired connection, or print from a tablet or smartphone regardless of your location. It uses Google Cloud Print which give you, and anyone else you choose, access to your printer wherever they are and is compatible with Google Docs and Google Mail too. Imagine that you’re working remotely, and want to send some images or documents back to the office. With cloud printing, you can send a copy to the office and print it out straight away.

If you have documents on your tablet with you at a meeting and the host has a cloud-friendly printer, you can print on their printer if they give you the email address for it. For family printing, we’ve sent photos home and found them printed out on our return which is going to significantly increase the chances of us having printed photos on display, rather than leaving them all on the phone!

Have you used the cloud for home or business computing? Share your tips and experiences in the comments

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