For years, technology experts have championed the power of taking your data online, where it’s housed away from your PC and stored, processed and retrieved from remote servers anytime, anywhere 24/7 via Internet connection. But 2013 may just be the year when it’s time for you to take the plunge – and for the so-called "cloud" to make it rain.
Online streaming services including music powerhouses Pandora, Slacker and Spotify, along with video pioneers such as Netflix and Hulu, already show the promise of a connected future. Like Apple’s iCloud -– which virtually warehouses documents, email, contacts, calendars and more, and synchronizes them across devices -– it’s one in which gadgets really do call Carly Rae Jepsen maybe, and only when users’ mood strikes. Rather than watch your hard drive needlessly fill with files, or see data deleted by mischievous roommates and clumsy siblings, cloud computing suddenly lets anyone store treasured information online and retrieve it on-demand as need dictates.
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Whether using Google or Zoho’s suite of office tools to simultaneously share and collaborate on work projects, or turning to solutions such as Dropbox and YouSendIt to distribute or transport oversized files worldwide, benefits are becoming more obvious. Suddenly, individuals and professionals are becoming increasingly unchained from desks and monitors.
Upsides are considerable and extend far beyond remote storage and backup to encompass access to enormous entertainment libraries accessible from virtually every smartphone, tablet and laptop. As evidenced by cloud gaming services, which use hyper-powered hardware to play top-performance video games then beam results down to even janky old PCs, we’ve barely scratched the surface too. With chip makers cramming growing power and 3D graphical prowess into cost-affordable, travel-friendly devices, the future of computing isn’t pricey hardware and annoying installations. It’s in cost-effective computing devices that all can access and enjoy.
Certainly, concerns do exist, especially with regard to privacy, as ongoing data breaches from major providers illustrate -– private and sensitive data is always subject to potential security failure if made available online. Growing dependence on online connectivity also puts a considerable crimp in one’s routine if Internet access isn’t readily available, or connectivity is prone to frequent outages.
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As sexy as the offers provided by many services are, transitions away from them won’t necessarily come easy either, with users effectively locked into a gilded cage. Ask yourself: What happens if you outsource your life to them, only to decide you’re unwilling to pay ongoing associated costs, or would prefer to switch providers at some later date?
Still, there’s much to be excited about in the world of cloud computing, and rightly so, especially for frequent travelers, or -– in the case of heavy music, movie and TV consumers -– those who’d rather sacrifice permanent content ownership in favor of membership fees that provide ongoing access to larger media libraries for the duration of pre-set plans.
Arguments both for and against the cloud are convincing, and a certain level of time and cost investment may be required to initially make the jump and transition your daily usage habits to match. But if you’ve been holding out on taking the plunge, there’s no better time to send your ambitions soaring towards the stratosphere: For cloud computing in 2013, the sky is clearly the limit.