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The Cloud, Day 30: Forecast--Increasingly Cloudy

I found more to like than dislike during my experience living in the cloud

Here we are. The 30 Days With the Cloud series is coming to an end, and that means that it’s time to recap and analyze the experience. Should you embrace the cloud, or should you avoid it?

The short answer is “yes”. There are parts of the cloud you should take advantage of, and there are aspects of the cloud you should dodge. The trick is knowing which is which and finding the right tools and services for your needs.

I’m all for uploading my music to the cloud so I can access it from any device. However, I also want it local because I want to be able to listen to my music even if the Internet isn’t available.

I think that storing and sharing photos online is awesome. However, I don’t trust Flickr,or Picasa, or Facebook, or any other site or service enough to trust it as the only repository for irreplaceable family memories. I want those pictures stored redundantly on multiple services, and a local copy just in case.

Things like email, word processing, personal finance, and even project management are all available as cloud-based services. In many cases they lack features you might find on locally-installed equivalents, but they also come with benefits and advantages you don’t have when your software is tethered to a single PC. You have to weigh those pros and cons out and decide what works.

When it comes to smartphones and tablets—as well as the exploding ultrabook market—the cloud is essentially a requirement. My Dell XPS M1330 laptop has a 500GB hard drive, but my MacBook Air only has a 128GB SSD, and my iPad and iPhone each have a relatively meager 16GB of local storage capacity.

The beauty of the cloud is that the 16GB on my iPhone or iPad are virtually irrelevant because the things I would normally store—music, pictures, documents, etc.—are all available from the cloud as long as I have an Internet connection.

My biggest complaint about relying on cloud-based tools is that I don’t want to be in a position where my PC is nothing more than a high-tech, glorified paper weight just because I can’t get an Internet connection. I want to be able to be productive and work on my computer at all times.

I realize I always run the risk of some sort of PC crash could grind my productivity to a halt as well. And, in those instances I am very thankful the cloud exists because the tools and services I do use in the cloud can enable me to simply jump on the first available Web-enabled device and get back to work rather than sitting idle while I rebuild or restore my PC.

As far as my experience goes, I think there was more to like about the cloud than to dislike. I have my concerns, but none of them are really deal-breakers, and I’m confident that cloud software and services will continue to evolve and improve to address at least some of those issues.

Honestly, "the cloud" is really just an over-hyped marketing buzzword. It's the Internet. The reality is that I rely on the Internet / Web for the vast majority of what I use a PC or mobile device for at any given time, so it's hard to ignore the value of "the cloud".

I recommend that consumers and businesses alike take a closer look at the cloud. It’s possible to exist purely in the cloud—like with a Chromebook running Google’s Chrome OS--but what probably makes sense for most people is to do a little of both. Use the cloud where it makes sense, but don’t trust the cloud implicitly.

Read the Last "30 Days" series: 30 Days With Windows Phone 7

Day 29: Five Things I Like Most About the Cloud

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