Imagine this scenario :
You wake up, switch on the PC and start browsing the net - you come across something nice, and bookmark it. Side by side, you are watching the latest episode of Prison Break or Lost (or Desperate Housewives, if you are into that sort of things...) Suddenly, you remember there is an important presentation you have to give in office that you had completely forgotten. You switch on the presentation editor, and start making it. You had researched for some content at the office and saved it at your office PC, but sadly, you do not remember the links or are able to search for it again now. Its almost time for the office bus, but there is still some more things to be added, some content that you had downloaded and kept at the PC - but you know if you sit around any longer, you will miss the bus and be late anyways.. So, you start copying it all - and then Murphy strikes - your PC hangs and it crashes.. You curse your luck, miss the bus anyways, and are back to square one with no presentation !!
Now, imagine a more web-aligned person. He wakes up, switches on the PC and starts browsing the net. All the tabs/history from his office PC are synced as soon as he starts up the browser, and continues to browse where he left in office. Side by side he opens up his online hard-disk and resumes the latest episode of Lost from where he left it while watching in the bus while returning from office. Suddenly, he remember there is an important presentation he has to give in office that he had completely forgotten. Coolly, he logs onto Google Docs and opens the folder where he had saved all the research material and starts making the presentation on Google Docs itself. Since its almost time for the bus to arrive, he switches off the PC (happy and content that all his material is safe on multiple backup enabled high-end google servers across the world), reaches office, and lo-and-behold, resumes his browsing and presentation preparation right where he left at home, without a single effort at his side...!!
This is 'Cloud Computing' !
So, how exactly do you define cloud-computing ?
The cloud computing has been gaining popularity slowly and surely over the years. Remember the era when Hotmail and Yahoo Mail used to give a measly 2MB mailbox storage ! Then came Gmail and changed people's perception of mail service - not only did you have a 2GB (to start off with - now its nearly 7 GB) of storage space, it combined the simplicity of interface ( I miss the conversation based view and tagging capabilities of Gmail in the Outlook 2007 !!), the search technology of Google with the convenience of anytime-anywhere mail. You no longer had to think about what to keep and what to delete - just store every important document in your gmail, tag it, and archive it - and rest assured, you will be able to find it when the need comes... Certain softwares/plugins even allowed you to use your gmail account like a hard-disk (Gmail Drive), by allowing you to store bigger files by splitting them in multiple attachments and mail. In my view, gmail pretty much was the first step to cloud computing for an average PC and net user.
There are a lot of services that provide cloud computing. Over the years, Google itself has expanded its cloud-based services -
- Store and save all you bookmarks in Google Bookmarks - and have them available across PC using google toolbar or online
- Save, view and edit you docs, presentations etc on Google Docs
- Found something interesting, then just note it in your Google Notebook (although its no longer actively developed).
- All your subscribed feeds are available on Google Reader
- Make and keep track of appointments on Google Calendar
- Save all your photos (with tags and face recognition) on Google's Picasa Albums. (and at just $5 for 20GB additional cheap, its getting almost as cheap as your regular hard-disks).
- Google's Chrome browser now supports bookmark sync (in beta version for now), although its not yet integrated with Google Bookmarks - it uses Google Docs to store and sync them.
- Download google sync and all your contacts/calendars on Google and mobile will e synced
- Springnotes is a third-party site that supports google openid login (see my earlier post if you still don't know what OpenID is !) and allows you to share notes etc in a better way.
And the best part is, most of these services are also accessible seamlessly on your phone too !!
While the above may look like a Google-sponsored advertisement, believe me its not. Its from a long-time user perspective that I write this. I really appreciate a single google account login provides (and if you have read my previous post - this is what OpenID is all about)
One thing that I guess google still lacks is a general 'online harddisk' - but there are enough sites that provide that - check out microsoft's skyDrive, iDrive, DropBox etc. But my strong feeling is that Google is soone gonna give us that too, and soon :)
Another leap that Google is now making is the Google Wave (in beta for now - entry strictly by invitation) - an online collaboration platform - which supports chat, collaborative editing, messaging etc... !! I have a few inviatations of Google Wave up for grabs - tell me in the Comments section why you need one, and you may just get lucky !
Also, browsers are now starting to support cloud-data too... Mozilla team has been developing an extension for firefox called Weave (which will be inbuilt in Firefox 4.0) - that not only supports syncing bookmarks and passwords (like a popular extension Xmarks used to) , but also, open tabs from other computers, history, browser settings etc. as well ! Opera has had similar feature too for quite sometime.
The move towards cloud-computing has been necessitated by the fact that most people now use multiple computers - a desktop at home, an office computer, and a laptop, and plus, internet access from mobile. In fact, Google's Android OS for mobile has a native support for all google services - that means as soon as you switch it on and put in Google Account password, you have instant access to all your contacts, calendar entries etc and they are constantly backed up on the cloud. Also, the fact that fast internet access via wired and wireless means on desktop, laptop and mobiles is commonplace now in a lot of countries has only helped the cause...
However, the above is also one of the strongest reasons why it will take some time getting popular in India - most people are still on 245Kbps plans, we don't yet have 3G (and only God and government knows when will it actually be here), WiFi hotspots are still an exception rather than norm - you cannot hope to transfer 20GB worth of photos on a measly 256kbps speed - and then hope to view it whenever you desire...!!
And by the way, very soon, you will probably be reading such blogs not on your expensive quad-core, 20GB RAM equipped Windows 7 PC but rather on a Intel Atom or ARM based 'netbook' running on Google's Chrome OS (more on this in my next post...) !!
Till then, decide who you want to be - the person who is waiting for Murphy's law to strike or the person who lives on 'cloud' !!
As always, this post is also available at my other blog on :