Enticed by the idea of cloud computing but not entirely sure how to go about using it? Chances are, you have been doing just that by using web services to store your data for you. Here are five free ways that you can get in on the new cloud computing phenomenon.
1. Use a cloud-based email service. All web-based email services are actually in the cloud. This includes Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo mail. In short, if all of your emails are stored online and not on your computer, you’re already emailing in the cloud. You can also filter these accounts through your PC by using a software program like Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird, but why take up space on your PC when you could be using your free 7 GB of Gmail storage? Gmail is hugely popular for a reason. You can also take advantage of Gmail’s free chat client, Gchat, designed for easy and casual communication between email correspondents.
2. Investigate online Docs services. At present there are two major cloud-based docs programs. These are Google Docs and docs.com, which is a Microsoft product designed to work with Office 2010 and integrated with Facebook. Both services allow for easy sharing, collaboration, and saving “in the cloud” to save space on individual PCs. Google Docs in particular has slightly fewer capabilities than Microsoft Word but it will almost certainly get the job done in a pinch with easy layout and design functions.
3. Collaborate online. Services like Google Calendar can help you coordinate with people all over the place, whether or not they’ve invested in expensive office software. Docs software also allows for easy collaboration and sharing. Keep track of blog posting schedules in a spreadsheet or work together on a business presentation, even when you’re at a distance. Scheduling meetings at any time of day has gotten much easier with these services, and now you won’t even need to fork out the cash so that everyone has the same expensive software.
4. Share photos. Services like Flickr, Photobucket, and even Facebook can share your photos across the web for you. No more need to mail off CDs to friends and family; just upload them and your family can download them for free. You’re also provided with an easy link, especially from Flickr, to post those pictures elsewhere on the internet. This solves the problem of buying your own webspace and storing your photos on your own PC. No need to worry about memory card space or PC meltdowns if all of your pictures are stored on the internet.
5. Start a blog. If you use services like Blogspot.com or WordPress.com, your blog is essentially stored in the cloud without you paying a penny. Customisation options are limited for these types of blogs, but if you’re looking to save some money but keep your blog, there aren’t many better ways to do it. Blogs enable you to share your thoughts and photos with the world, on one defined subject or on as many as you like.
Students and researchers may be lucky enough to get free cloud computing services, especially if they are attached to universities. I used to have free webspace from my university. If you think you might have it, ask! Don’t use your PC space when you could be storing your information in the cloud.