I want to take a minute and talk about two of my favorite cloud applications. Dropbox and Logmein.
First, lets start off with a description of "The Cloud". The Cloud is what most tech savvy folks have been calling the internet (or anything outside of their own local area networks and out in that big bad world of ours) for a long time. How did this come to pass? My money would be on the Visio-esque flowchart diagrams that Systems and Network administrators would make to diagram their network. Whenever they would refference the internet on the diagram, they would most often than not, draw a picture of a cloud. Why a cloud? It's an amorphous shape that can't really be defined, much like the internet. The internet is so many things, you couldn't draw any one shape to describe it. Recently, "The cloud" has become a buzz word for anything hosted somewhere on the internet and not on your local area network.
"Cloud" computing, "Cloud" Apps, "Cloud" storage. Storage so happens to bring us to my first fav cloud app, Dropbox.
Dropbox is a service that allows you to host your files (Docs, Pictures, Media etc etc) out in the cloud. Most important and to the point, on someone elses storage. This leaves you to reclaim your storage for more important things, or to give you the peace of mind that if you should experience a hardware failure, you're not going to lose your stuff. My favorite features of Dropbox are that you can create a folder that will sychronize files accross multiple machines. I have a few computers between work and my personal computers at home where I have the dropbox agent installed and all files contained within, are almost instantly synchronized across all of them.
Another Feature of Dropbox is the shared folders. You can create a folder within your dropbox (the folder you speficy to contain all the files/folders you want hosted in the cloud) and then log into the drop box website, and pick another dropbox member to share a specific folder with. Anything you place into the folder will automagically synch to the corresponding shared folder in your buddy's own dropbox folder. This has become invaluable for sharing photographs, apps and media. Just yesterday I had one of my buddy's drop me the ISO for ERD commander in a pinch as I had misplaced my own copy and needed it for work. I had the 200meg file in less than 5 minutes.
Dropbox is free for the first 2GB with paid options availble. Though, if you have a network of friends, paying may not be necessary. Dropbox has a refferal program that rewards you with 250megs of additinal space for every friend that you refer (with a cap at 8GB). I have reached 4GB of storage very easily and find it to be sufficient for my needs.
Check out dropbox here: https://www.dropbox.com/
Logmein brings to the cloud the ability to remotely control any computer that has an always on connection to the internet. A little agent that runs in the corner of your screen allows you to log into the "Logmein" webpage and assume control of your computer from anywhere int he world. The best part about it is that it is FREE! There are paid versions that allow you to transfer files, hear audio, print remotely etc etc, but for most of us, simple control of your computer away from home is sufficient. And when combined with a service like Dropbox, provides almost instantaneous and convenient access to your computer and your files from anywhere.
You can check out Logmein here: https://secure.logmein.com/US/products/createaccount.aspx
My most significant example of where these tools were the most useful was when I was in China for three weeks. The Chinese government blocks access to most Social networking sites, including facebook. I had been taking a lot of photos in my off time and wanted to share them with folks at home. What I was able to do to circumvent "the great firewall of China" was to drop all of my photos into my dropbox on my laptop, allow them to synch all the way from across the world to my computer at home, and THEN use Logmein to log into my computer at home, go into Facebook and upload all of my photos. Simple as that!
For those of you who live off of your Iphone and android devices, Logmein and Dropbox have apps for both. The Logmein Ignition app (which will run you about $30) will allow you to remotely control your computers and the Dropbox app allows for you to access your files and administer your shares and folders on the fly.
If you don't hear from me before 2011, have a happy holidays and a great new year!