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.


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.

38 thoughts on “Week Eight: Cloud Computing

  1. I enjoyed working with Google Documents. I think it would be very helpful if you needed access from multiple locations and for collaboration purposes.

  2. Google docs has been an extremely useful tool for me . . .

    1. I have different (and occasionally incompatible) word processing programs at the Library and at home. Google docs are available to me at both places and the formatting doesn’t change.

    2. When I have a document that I don’t want to save on the shared drive at the Library, creating it in Google docs gives me a place for private information.

    3. The Kansas Reads to Preschoolers committee is using Google docs to share information about book titles that are under consideration — very cool!

    4. When you travel overseas, you are warned to carry photocopies of everything you’d hate to lose in case the original is lost or stolen (passport, plane tickets, reservation information, etc). It seemed just as likely to me that I would lose the copies too, not to mention the bulk of carrying all that stuff around. So before we left for England, I scanned all the stuff, slapped the images into Google docs, and felt certain that I could eventually get to the Internet if we had any sort of emergency (we didn’t). The only thing I would change next time would be to “Share” these documents with my Dad or another family member at home before we left.

  3. Looking for one new 23 things friend to collaborate with on Google Docs. If you are looking for a new partner to do this project with contact me through my blog.

  4. Thank you Susan for a great idea regarding taking things with you when you travel. That is a great suggestion! One has to stop and think of times when we could utilize the Google documents more efficiently.

  5. Google Docs changed my life. When it was introduced, it made collaboration with my group on homework assignments at SLIM so much easier! No more drafts in thousands of emails, no more making sure everyone had the same software and it was especially awesome that we didn’t have to have one “editor” for the powerpoint/paper who had the task of combining all the edits!

  6. I love Susan’s tip on travel documents. Excellent! Here’s part of what I posted to my blog:

    No longer will I need to burn the library’s summer reading program Power Point presentation on a CD then deliver it to the school district because the file is too large to get by the district’s firewall, not mention our own firewall! I can upload it to Google Docs with a click, email the library media coordinator, and she can access it and download it on her end of town.

    As I surfed through the various options offered in the realm of cloud computing, I was pleased to see that many are FREE. However, if one is serious about using it for business, there are some fees attached. I thought of a use for online calendars: at our library we plan the weekend rotations far in advance (we’re trying a year’s forward plan at present). We also keep several weeks of desk schedules for reference coverage on our intranet. The current system for the desk schedules is pretty clunky and requires training. It would be terrific to use Google calendar, which can be embedded on one’s website, then grant access to all pertinent staff so they can check the schedule from home. It’s not possible with our intranet at present. I mentioned this to the branch manager, and we’re going to pursue the matter. I love the immediate benefit of 23ThingsKS!!!

  7. There are several free online calendars, but we use Google calendars at Atchison because our email is through Google. It makes it really handy to access the calendar while logged in to our email instead of having to go to another website (like 30boxes). We have calendars set up for each staff member, one for the downstairs meeting room, and one for each of the circulation desks.

  8. I use Google Docs for scrapbooking. I can share the basic layout, and captions, Friends and family can edit changes before I make the final book. I made one for Kansas photos using an existing template. If you use Google Docs, feel free to add photos and captions of ‘what is Kansas’!

    Search for : 23 Things …….. Kansas in google docs. This worked the second time I tried. The owner comes up as my hubby, Davearnold01. Well, I guess I should have made sure I was signed in, and not his name! Any way, I would love to share photos of Kansas!

  9. Hey Susan, thanks for the shout-out about the Preschoolers committee using Google Docs – this is the first year we’ve done that and I’m pleased to see that committee members are contributing titles.

    I did have some trouble with the Presentations function in Google Docs – it seemed like random bits from other slides ended up on the slide I was working on & I had to delete that slide & create it again.

    Do things like Doodle polls count? I’ve used those for scheduling meetings & taking yes/no type surveys for a long time, cloud-wise, and find it so much more efficient than sending tons of e-mail to try to find a common meeting time.

  10. I really like the idea that a person can backup just about any information on your Google Docs. If and when I do travel I am going to take Susan Bryant’s advice and scan my info to make sure someone else has access to it just in case something happens to me. I am new to this but I already enjoy the ability to import other e-mail systems into google and then you can choose what e-mail to send it out under. Google is awesome!

  11. Roberta- What a great way to use Google docs. I would love to add a photo to your pictures of Kansas. I couldn’t find your template however. Is it a public template? If not, you will need to share the link by sending me an email. Here is my email dweaver [at] atchisonlibrary.org.

  12. Rhonda- Google Presentations is not my favorite either. Thanks for sharing your experience. Doodle is a great example of a cloud computing tool. For those who have never used it, it is good for scheduling a convenient meeting time for a group of people. One person sets up a poll that includes several suggested dates and times, and then sends out the invitation to participants. Each person checks the times and dates they will be available, and then you can pick the time when the most people can attend. I have never used it for surveys, but maybe I will try it out sometime. I usually use SurveyMonkey.

  13. Thanks for the invite to your Google template, Roberta! I added a couple of pictures to your Scrapbook presentation. I had a little trouble figuring out how to layer the graphics in the template with my pictures. But it was really fun!

  14. Thank you Susan Bryant for sharing the Google Docs travel tip ideas! It seems like a much safer and more sensible solution than trying to keep copies accessible (and safe!) on the road!

    I’ve used bubbl.us to make flow charts and visualizations for presentations–http://www.bubbl.us/edit.php

    and for online quizzes or quick polls: http://www.surveymonkey.com

  15. For week eight I decided to do a fun little collaboration exercise with my colleagues, and I invite you all as well. I asked colleagues and friends to use a common Google Docs document to add their “best” reference questions. Funny, weird, sappy, whatever they wanted. It is still ongoing, but there are a few listed.

    Have a go!
    Here is the Doc link.

    (There is no preview, so if the HTML doesn’t work, here is the link)

  16. I really enjoyed editing a list of materials for someone else. But I have a question about uploading and editing. Can we upload such things from Publisher if the other person has it. Or does it have to compatible with google.docs? What are some of the paramiters?

  17. If we use Google docs do we upload a document? do we use google spreadsheets for spreadsheets? Or do we have to create the document in google docs? I am lost, please help!

  18. Melany – Google docs is not compatible with Publisher. There is a good explanation of why on the Google support forum http://bit.ly/aP3wms. If you want to share Publisher documents, you might try Dropbox.com. You would upload the document you have created to a folder in Dropbox, invite someone to share it, then they would download it to their local computer to edit. After they have edited it, they would upload it to Dropbox and share it with you. It is a little more effort than sharing a document on Google, but you would be able to retain the format and graphics of a Publisher document.

  19. Shirley – If you have a document (or spreadsheet or presentation) on your computer that you want to share, you can upload it to Google docs, then share it. Or you can create a new one by clicking on the Create New button on the upper left side of the screen under the Google logo. Does that make sense?

  20. Good Site on Cloud Computing and SaaS – We are periodically looking for good blog information
    related to Cloud Computing. Will be back to review more information on your blog.

    Keep up the good work!


  21. I’ve been running behind on my 23 Things Kansas assignments and so got back to it today. I really have learned a lot about Google Docs from the comments made by some of you. Thanks for all the learning you have provided. I really loved Jeff Tate’s 23 Things Kansas Google doc on unusual reference questions and I even got to add one of my own to the list.

  22. Lou,

    Glad you like the document. It has been fun to read. So how long had the 12 year old kid been alive? Eight years is my guess, but I would need further information to figure it out.

    Jeff T

  23. I’m trying out the presentation part of Google docs. It seems pretty straightforward, but I keep getting a pop-up: “Sorry, a network error has occurred while saving your changes. Please try again. If the problem persists, please stop working until you are able to re-establish a network connection, as your unsaved changes may be lost.” So I had to restart my presentation editing a couple of times. Look out– when I’m finished, there’s no telling who I’ll invite to collaborate!

  24. I thought that cloud computing would be hard to do, but it was really simple once I listened to the video. Thanks for Susan’s updates and google docs, I am sure I can tackle all scheduling needs for the library.

  25. I was very impressed with dropbox.com. It will be great for accessing files from home that are on my work computer, or sending to an interested student. The files I used were instructional, and can be linked directly into an email instead of sending as an attachment. I will not be limited to only my desktop in doing this.

  26. Any student in Kansas has access to an Education Backpack on the Kan-ed site, they are in the clouds there, just may not know it.

  27. Diana,
    Yesterday I created documents and uploaded them into Google docs. I organized them into a folder. I then invited several people to see them. This morning when I logged in to see if there were any comments, I found that my folder, along with the documents had disappeared. What happened? & probably most important, can I get them back?

  28. Jane-
    I don’t really know what might have happened. You might try logging out and logging back in again, if you haven’t already. Hopefully, you had the documents saved so that you could upload them again. Sounds frustrating!

  29. This was a very useful, I think this would be wonderful for use with the Wilmore Library, as we are a branch, and that way Ellen at Coldwater and Wilmore would have a common calender for each month. I used the 30 Boxes and it was so easy to understand and super easy to use!

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