All posts by Diana Weaver

Week Eight: Cloud Computing

Welcome to Cloud Computing! My name is Diana Weaver and I am your guide this week along with Erin Downey Howerton. Being somewhat of a nature girl, I’ve found that cloud computing is a topic that lends itself well to nature metaphors (and bad puns – so, I’m apologizing in advance). For example, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same.” We could also say, “Technology is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same.” Cloud computing has many formations (I warned you about the bad puns) and is always evolving and changing. But there are some basic similarities and constants that you will learn to recognize as you become more familiar with various tools.

Introduction

This week’s topic is almost as wide as the horizon, but I will try to condense the information. Cloud computing is a concept. Think of “cloud” as a metaphor for the Internet. “Computing” is, of course, what we do with our computers. So, cloud computing is doing what we usually do with our computers – only we do it over the Internet. When you are cloud computing, instead of using the machine on your desk or in your lap, you’re using remote (non-local) computers for computing. Even though you are using a computer to access information or perform tasks, if you are “in the cloud” you are actually tapping into shared resources (like programs and applications) via the Internet.

There are thousands of examples of ways we use cloud computing, all the way from online shopping to social networking to storing business data. It gives us great opportunities to share documents and projects in a single space. It allows, and encourages, co-creating and collaboration on projects no matter where the participants might be – in the same building or miles apart.

Another silver lining of cloud computing is lower costs because expensive software does not have to be purchased for each individual machine; instead, similar software can be used through the Internet. I have listed some examples below. Cloud computing also reduces the need for expensive hardware, like local servers. This video from Common Craft explains cloud computing advantages for businesses.

The article and videos in Cloud Computing Hunt will also help clear things a bit. Don’t miss the video clip embedded in the article. It shows a CNN interview of the article’s author and has a good discussion of some of the security issues involved with cloud computing. Security concerns and the possibility of limited access or data loss are things we should keep on our radar when we are computing in the clouds. We should also always keep in mind the rule of LOCKSS (Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe).

Sharing and Productivity

Once you’re familiar with what cloud computing is, you will probably realize that you’ve already done some computing business there. If you’ve bought something from Amazon or eBay, you’ve been shopping in the cloud. As a participant in 23 Things Kansas, you’ve had your head in the clouds since January! All of these technologies – blogs, online communities, online meetings, photo sharing, RSS feeds, tagging, and microblogging – take place in the cloud. The server that hosts all our KLOW websites is now in the cloud, making it safer from malicious hackers. Online banking is another example. See if you can think of more.

Tools for your consideration

Here are some alternative software tools that are available free on the Internet. Most have tutorials, FAQs, or videos that explain how they work. This is just a very brief list – if you know of others, share your favorites in the comment section of this post.

Keep in mind that one of the most valuable and important things about cloud computing are the many opportunities for collaboration with other users. The tools listed above can all be used to share ideas and collaborate on projects. A very useful example is Google docs. Common Craft has a great video that explains how this works.

Tool Instructions and Activity

Okay, so the whole idea of this week’s lesson is to experience collaborating in the cloud with others on a single project. Here are some suggestions. Once you choose a project, invite at least ONE new 23 things friend and at least ONE current work/school colleague to use a tool with you. If you need a list of email addresses for Kansas Librarians, try the Kansas Library Directory. Or, better yet, just go to the 23 Things blog roll and post a comment to someone’s blog. Ask them to join you in your project.

Remember Emerson, technology “is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same.” For most cloud computing collaboration tools, the “always the same” are:

  • one person will need to sign up, usually by setting up a login and password
  • that person will need to share by inviting others (sometimes done by managing settings or defining permissions)
  • the invitees will need to accept the invitation

Have fun creating something together and then share your experience through your blog.