Why should I know about cloud computing?
Cloud computing is great for a lot of different reasons. Here are three of those:
Michael has just finished his first novel (and he’s looking for an agent if you know anyone) and he wants to make absolutely sure the manuscript is kept safe. He wants backup files that are easy to make, convenient to access, and are maintained by someone with computer expertise. He saved his novel in the cloud and got all three. (And good thing, too, since his computer crashed two weeks later.)
Erin wants to create new marketing materials for her business and is working with Barney, a freelance graphic designer. Because he lives all the way across town and teaches improv comedy at night, there’s no time to meet up in person before everything has to go to the printer. Before, they’d have to email each other every updated draft. But by working together in the cloud, they can both go to the same document at the same time and make their changes. (Of course, Barney is still insisting on using that horrible font he loves so much. But cloud computing can’t help with that.)
Sean’s paper on ancient Mesopotamian pottery techniques is due by 5:00. It’s 11:55, he’s only halfway done, and he needs to go down to the university library to finish his paper there. Before, he would have had to save his work to a USB drive in order to take it with him. But since he stored his work online, all he has to do is click save and go. After stopping for a Dr Pepper and a Snickers bar, he just logs in at a library computer and voila! His work is there waiting for him. At 4:57 the report is done and sent in. Even better, he just clicks save again — no forgetting the USB drive in the computer.
What is Cloud Computing?
What you’re about to click on is a link to a Prezi presentation. What’s a Prezi? It’s a presentation tool that allows you to follow the text as it moves, turns, and zooms. If you haven’t used it before, here’s what you do:
- Click on the Play button (in the box below) to start it.
- Once the Prezi is loaded, click again on the “Play” button each time you want to move forward through the slides.
- When you get to the end and the Play button disappears, scroll down to the “Discovery Exercise” below the Prezi to get back to the class. That’s it! No, really that’s all there is to it. Enjoy.
Not working for you? Here are some Prezi alternatives:
- Are you using an iPhone, iPod or iPad? Download the free Prezi Viewer app and go to the cloud computing Prezi online, then return to this blog when you’re finished.
- Is the Prezi too zoom-y? You can also view the Cloud computing Prezi as a PDF, which has no motion.
So cloud computing can handle all my storage needs? And there’s no downside? Awesome!
Um, okay, we admit it. The great strength of cloud computing is also its weakness: it’s online. While this means that you can access your documents anywhere you have internet, you can only access them in places that have internet. Additionally, often the online file creator/editor isn’t like the full-service version that’s installed on your computer. It’ll do bare-bones, but you’d have to go back to a desktop program for the frills.
However, for example, we started this Prezi on a work computer, then shifted it to Google Docs and wrote the rest from the cloud at another computer at the library. We even worked on it from a different library branch, seamlessly. It’s pretty cool.
What else could go wrong with cloud computing? You have to be able to trust the company you’re working with not to sell your documents to a shady character in a trenchcoat down a dark alley. And even a 100% honest and trustworthy company can mess up big time if gremlins start chewing on their wiring. For this reason, it’s a good idea to back up your most super-duper important cloud docs to a local computer somewhere.
And because your computer is constantly talking to a server over the internet, your connection speed can become an issue. Still using your Aunt Margie’s dial-up? Cloud computing may not be the best choice for you.
I Want to Try!
What we’ll be exploring is Google Docs, a free, “cloud” equivalent for Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect. Google Docs is considered a “cloud” service because a) There’s no download to install. b) It is shareable (two people can even edit at the same time). c) It can be accessed whenever and wherever there is internet. When you create a document in Google Docs you are working on the internet and saving to the internet.
Here’s a short video introduction to Google Docs:
OK, here we go. Do you have a Gmail account or Google ID? If not, go set one up. (We got you a Gmail account in Thing #5 and made a Google ID back in Thing #2.) If you didn’t do those classes, you can get your ID here: https://www.google.com/accounts/NewAccount
It’s ok, we’ll wait…
Oh, you’re back!
Okay, now you’re ready to start playing with Google Docs. You can try this one of two ways.
First Way: Storage and retrieval
- Go to Google and sign in. Find “Documents” in the menu along the top. You might have to click the “more” button to find it on the list, but it’s there, I promise.
- Go to “Create New” on the upper left-hand side (under the Google Docs logo) and select a file type. You can create a document (like Word), a presentation (like Powerpoint), or a spreadsheet (like Excel). Make any kind of document you want. It will pop up in a new tab or window.
- Give it a name. You can either click on the word “Untitled” to change it or just type your title as the first line of your document.
- Type a little something in the body of the document.
- Click the “save and close” button. Log out of Google Docs.
- Move to another computer.
- Log into Google Docs, select your document from the list, and keep working!
- Was that easy or what?
Second Way: Collaboration
- Grab a friend who also has a Gmail account or Google ID. If you don’t have a friend, make one. We suggest cupcakes.
- Log on to Google. Follow the instructions above to set up your Google Docs account.
- One of you create or upload a document to Google Docs. Then — and this is important! — give the other person permission to access that file. There are two ways to do that:
- From the file itself, go to the upper right-hand corner and click the “share” button. Pick “invite people” and you’ll get a pop-up box that asks for the email address of the person you want to share with. Plug in their address and write them a message.
- From the list of your files, select the ones you want to share by clicking the checkbox to the right of the file name. Select “invite people,” and you’ll get the same pop-up box as in the first way.
- The second person will get an e-mail telling them you’re sharing a document. They can click the link in that, or they can simply sign into their own Google Docs pages and the test document will magically appear on their list.
- Now both of you can edit the document. You can even edit it at the same time. Try it!
Tell Me More!
Plus Google docs is constantly making improvements and changes. This blog has tons of tips and tricks to help you keep up.
But it’s not just Google that has cloud products—there are other services that offer a way to store, edit, and share documents online:
Office Live Workspace – Microsoft’s answer to Google Documents. It, too, has document, presentation, and spreadsheet options.
SlideShare – This is just for Powerpoint-style presentations. While there’s no function to create or edit, it is much, much easier to share presentations with others using SlideShare. Just send a URL. Others can even download your file.
DropBox – Software that allows you store documents or images, etc. on the internet so you can get to them from any computer with internet access. Download DropBox to your computer and put everything you need in a particular folder on your hard drive. Then you can either install DropBox on other computers you own, or use the DropBox website to get to that folder online.
And guess what? We’re halfway done. Next week we move on to the mega-trend of 2011: digital downloads!
Comments & suggestions welcome: Jenn and I welcome your comments about these classes! Comment in the “leave a Reply” form below or via the tech help comment form at: http://www.library.pima.gov/contact/tech.php