In The Cloud

Fifteen years ago people carried their documents around on floppy discs, then many people switched to memory sticks, and now a few are turning to the cloud.

Cloud computing means the ability to access, change and interact with data on any platform with a net connection, including on smartphones.

These online services require no software purchase and installation and most run via a browser. Users can pick from the growing number of cloud-based offerings, such as Google Docs and dropbox.

Evernote is another system where various pieces of information, such as webpages, business cards and text notes can be collected into virtual and searchable notebooks. But there are concerns that storing personal data on a server somewhere in cyberspace could pose a major threat to the privacy of individuals.

Trust value

Dropbox has more than four million customers who can upload digital content which is permanently synced across a number of their devices.

Cloud danger

Unlike Dropbox and Evernote, some services do not synchronise data to personal computers and are based solely in the cloud. An internet connection failure, or infrastructure downtime, is enough to cut people off from their files on these systems.

Many people have become heavy users of the free collaborative online tools that are based in the cloud. This has prompted some companies to go as far as banning cloud computing completely.

Limited options

Not relying on the cloud entirely is one concern, but critics advise users to ponder on the physical location of their work, issues over ownership, and the rising fees for accessing it. These factors may have to be taken into account by governments too in the future, and legislation could be needed to define new parameters for consumers.

Moving information to a virtual computer puts someone else in control of security, and there is an ever-present risk from hackers.

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