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In this series on productivity, author Jess Stratton takes you through the latest tools that will help you run your business and life more efficiently. Each installment covers a particular feature or technique in a different online tool, such as Google Apps, Skype, YouTube, Mint.com, Etsy, and more. Check back every Monday for tips on topics from recording and publishing video chats to managing your finances online.
Jess Stratton here, and welcome to Monday productivity pointers. In the last video, I covered what a firewall is and how data travels through the internet. Well we're still on a back to basics week, so today I'm covering the cloud. I'm sure you've heard of cloud software and people working in the cloud. In fact most of the apps that I cover on Monday Productivities are in fact cloud apps. So, that brings us to what I'm going to cover. What exactly is the cloud? Why would I want to start working on the cloud? And what are some pros and cons of putting my data in the cloud? I'm going to answer those and more, so let's get started.
Question number one that I'm going to answer is, of course, what is the cloud? Well, the cloud is a term for any app or means of storing data that isn't on your computer. There may be an app installed on your computer. Or you could be using it via a web browser, but the data is not located on your computer. They're on the Internet somewhere using another company's resources to run them, host them. And then, that company is responsible also for backing them up for you. So the next question of course, why is it called the cloud? Here's a network diagram that could look like your home network and you may remember this from the last video that I just did on how firewalls work.
In the early days of network diagrams and even today, the icon associated with the internet outside of the network that the diagram was covering, was depicted by a cloud icon. You can see it over here. I have my cloud and it's called the Internet and it's everything that's outside of the scope of my local network. It's the unknown Internet. Anything past this local area network that the firewall guards, and it's outside the firewall, it protects us from unwanted Internet data. Now we don't know what's out here. That's why it's depicted by a cloud.
So this definitely covers the apps that we're talking about. They aren't located on any computer in my home network, or office network. They're all remotely located somewhere outside and pass my Internet firewall. Things like Dropbox, which I talked about before, in which you can take all your files and store them on the Cloud on Dropbox's web servers. The company Dropbox is the one responsible for backing up and protecting my data. There's also Wunderlist which is another app that I talked about before.
Now I can download the app to use on my computer, but the data is stored on Wunderlist's servers. So going back to this home network diagram, let's just quickly talk about the last two questions. Which are, what are the pros and cons of working in the cloud? Well let's start with the benefits. Of course the first benefit is anywhere access. As long as I have Internet access, and a computer, smartphone or tablet, I can access the file I need. And remember, it doesn't even have to be my computer.
Because these are accessible via any browser. I could go over to a friends house, hop on their computer, log in to the service, and access the file I need. If I use a cloud app that lets me store my grocery list online and I find I'm near a grocery store, I can whip out my smartphone and see what's on my list. If I'm near a public library and I need to print out my plane boarding pass for a flight I'm taking tomorrow, I can log in to my airline account and print it out right there because libraries always have public computers that you can use. Another benefit is that it's somebody else's responsibility to run, maintain and backup.
All I have to do is keep working. So what are the cons of using software in the cloud? The first one is a biggie. And that is privacy issues. You do need to read how the company that's storing your data will use your data. Are they selling it? Will they let you have it? Who owns the data? Also, the other con is, that in order to use your data that's located on the Internet, you have to actually be connected to the Internet. Now most of the time this is not a problem.
If your word processing files are located on a storage server like Google Drive, but you haven't brought them down to your laptop, if the power goes out, of course you can still use your laptop that's running on batteries, but with no Internet connection it's as good as a paperweight if you were planning on getting some work done on those files. So balance the pros and cons, and the unique way that you work, to decide if a CloudApp solution is the right one for you.
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