Living in the Clouds

cloud-computing

I recently read a post in Doug Johnson’s eloquent Blue Skunk Blog about cloud computing that started me thinking more about this topic. Are you cloud computing? You’re probably doing some form of cloud computing without even realizing it. There are many different definitions of cloud computing, so whether you are cloud computing depends on who you ask. I like Doug’s definition, which is using the Internet for applications and file storage while using nothing on one’s own computer hard drive except a web browser. Ahhh…the freedom…like floating on a cloud. But I’m a little bit of a coward. Are my files really secure when I save them on the web? Really, really secure?  For example, when I send messages via Gmail, I have noticed that Gmail’s sponsored links reflect topics I’m discussing in my email. Are they also scanning my Google docs or files I’m emailing to myself as part of my cloud computing start-up agenda? Suppose my docs contain details of an invention I’m trying to patent, and someone at Google steals my ideas? Call me paranoid, but cloud computing does involve an element of trust. But if you are a trusting soul, here are some baby step apps you may want to try:

 

http://www.box.net/

Box.net | Simple Online Collaboration: Online File Storage, FTP Replacement, Team Workspaces ~ Free Version via kwout

First, for file sharing, and online saving, in addition to Google Docs, consider box.net and drop.io. These are great to recommend to your students who do not use flash drives to store their information, or who lose them fifteen minutes after purchasing them. Box will allow you to save files up to 25 MB, and will give you up to 1 GB of storage for free. You also get five collaboration folders that you can share with your colleagues–for your students, this could be a shared project. Box is like an online file box for all your important files to help you feel safe, secure, and organized. You can upload and download your files with no special software needed, and you can share files instantly with anyone. All you do is email your file to Box and they save it for you until it is needed. You can even host photos with no bandwidth limit. If you need more storage, there are paid versions available. If you aren’t sure the paid versions are worth it, you can try them out for free for two weeks.

 http://drop.io/

With drop.io, you always get 100 MB “drops” for free. For $10 a year you get one drop (upload) and one GB of storage. For more money, you get more storage and more drops.  You don’t even have to create an account or remember a user name and password as with most Web 2.0 sites. You do have to remember the location (URL) which you assign to your “drop” as the exchange points are called. The drops are private, and you determine how available you want them to be to others, such as students allowing access to teachers. All you do is name your drop; upload your file; decide whether or not to password protect the file; choose a date when you want the file to be deleted (tell your students, for example, to select a couple of weeks after their papers are due–don’t make it too early in case you give them an extension or they have to do a rewrite, or in case they get a reprieve from the governor!); then select an option of whether others can view; view and add; or view, add and delete. Now just hit the big red “Drop it!” button and your file is saved in lovely cyberspace. All you do is go back to your previously-named address (what–you didn’t forget that URL already, did you?) and open that file. What could be easier?

flickr-picasa-photobucket

For photo sharing, may I suggest Flickr, Picasa, and Photobucket. Photobucket allows you to store up to 10,000 photos and hours of video for free. Picasa  is a Google product that gives you one GB of free storage–about enough space for 4,000 wallpaper-size photos. Flickr is probably the most popular online photo storage site. It allows you to upload, edit, organize, and share your photos. It is also home to Flickr Creative Commons that provides copyright-friendly photos for our students to use in their school assignments, making it transparent to them how to give appropriate credit to the photo’s creator.

If you try these great Web 2.0 tools, you still won’t be completely in the clouds, but you’ll be on your way! In the meantime, check out Doug’s great blog and another great article from InfoWorld.

Ruth Fleet
Creekview High School