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‘Cloud computing’, where the data is stored safely away from the user’s device is an old idea.

Until the 1990’s most office computers were ‘dummy terminals’: a keyboard and monitor linked to a separate server (usually in the IT dept.) where all the data was stored, on what we now call the shared hard drive.

Getting Personal

That all changed with the arrival of ‘personal computers’ or PCs. Users began storing data on the local hard drive of their computer. The benefits were obvious. You no longer needed to be connected to the office server so you could update your sales figures from home or on the road.

Then at the next sales meeting, all the attendees would have the same group spreadsheet… only slightly different versions, as not everyone had undertaken the tedious task of copying their latest figures on their personal hard drives to the spreadsheet on the shared drive.

Next the data on your home PC is corrupted or your laptop is stolen. All the latest performance draining virus protection you installed won’t bring back the data you failed to back up. Hmmm.

Learning from the Past

Cloud computing software, like Dropbox, takes an abrupt u-turn on this way of thinking. This time though, whilst separate from the input device, the data is no longer on a server in a back room down the corridor, it’s accessed via the internet.

Whether it’s from your work or home desktop, laptop, tablet or phone, you can access and update the latest version of your professionally secured files wherever you happen to be.

Usability as well as Security

Unlike shared hard drives, to share specific files you don’t need IT to partition data into a plethora of drives and set up specific user access. Just create a folder and invite someone to access that folder so they can view/ update it. What some people may not realise is they are already using the cloud…

Cloud by Stealth

Think of the web apps you use. Cloud computing apps like Facebook and Twitter has led to a 59% decrease in email use in US teens from Dec. ’09 to Dec. ’10*. So if you are looking at moving to the cloud, you already are! Just not for work documents.

So, its Back to the Future everyone !

* Source of e-mail stats: comScore