Put your head in the clouds

When the internet was in its youth, IT boffins would explain the interconnected digital world using symbols and swirling arrows scribbled on whiteboards to indicate how data flowed between WANs, LANs and PCs. Hovering above all this scrawl was a huge, hazy blob which represented the internet.

This was the vision of the internet pioneers: a celestial switchboard that connected everything and everybody. The reality did not match the dream, however, as software was bought on discs, delivered to the purchaser along with bulky manuals, and loaded directly onto PCs. Over time, as products have become much more complex and require much more memory and processing power, this way of working has become unsustainable.

Enter the cloud. That initial concept of the internet as a hazy blob floating around up in the heavens has returned. Now software can either be downloaded from the cloud, or accessed remotely from down here on terre ferma.

Often referred to as Software As A Service (SAAS), this detached approach to software use has enabled online word processing, spreadsheets, databases and storage systems to be made available free of charge. Thanks to its immense storage capacity, cloud technology can provide easy access to very sophisticated software programs which would otherwise remain off limits. Highly sophisticated photo-editing programs, such as Pixlr, can be accessed free of charge. Accounting programs, such as Xero, which we use here at Logo, can be rented, so you only pay for what you use.

Software and data held in the cloud can be accessed from any PC, anywhere in the world, with access to the internet. Users of cloud-based software have the added benefit of being able to update their software with effortless ease without delay.

As our use of computer technology is resulting in file-sizes that would have been unimaginable ten years ago, the cloud gives us access to a colossal amount of storage space. From MP3 music files to digital photography to the complete backup of an entire PC, all your memory-hogging data can be stored safe and secure within the cloud’s silver lining.

Using a computer is no longer a self-contained exercise. While our fingers tap at a keyboard and our eyes look at a screen, a majority of the work is often taking place elsewhere, in the cloud.

Useful links

  • Free online image editor: Pixlr – quick and easy to use if you just need basic enhancement of photographs. Avoid adding their retro filters, borders and effects if you want to be taken seriously!
  • Another example of free and simple cloud resources is the excellent backup and file transfer service from DropBox.
  • If you’ve sold your soul to Apple then you can store all your pics, music, apps and the entire contents of your wardrobe (joke!) in their iCloud and – sacrilege – you can do it from a PC too.
  • Google Business Apps – from £33 p.a. includes online word processing, spreadsheets, business email addresses, VOIP, 30GB storage…
  • And for the grown up and boring big businesses Microsoft have their own offerings – including their ubiquitous Office Suite – on Microsoft Cloud Services.
  • If you really must have programs running on your computer try Open Office which is an open source comprehensive suite of ‘office’ software.  Developed over the last 14 years, with the most recent major update in April 2014, it boasts over 100 million users worldwide.