Cloud computing is without doubt a term most of us have already heard and read about. However, the boom of its characteristics - richer user experience, immediate response to user actions, and offline mode compared to web applications or programs installed in user devices or PCs - makes this platform very convenient and even a necessity.
Recently more software developers have gone beyond using the cloud just for business purposes to create more entertaining experiences, ensuring cloud services rule the personal lives of consumers too.
The Evolution of Consumption
In our daily business and leisure activities we utilize multiple devices to consume and produce data that go from PCs and laptops to smartphones and tablets. The main function of cloud services is to allow us to centralize and sync our content across those devices.
Consumer cloud apps provide functions that go over and above simple storage or sharing, and do not need to be installed on a PC or smartphone. It offers the best of both worlds - applications for both personal and professional use.
The Battle of the Clouds
You’ve probably heard or even currently utilize some of the market’s most popular consumer cloud apps: Apple’s iCloud, Google’s Docs and Calendar applications, Microsoft’s SkyDrive and its Windows Live products, as well as Amazon’s Cloud Drive. A very recognized cloud service for Apple customers is CloudApp, powered by Heroku, which is available to Mac OS and iOS users. This application has built its own ecosystem around it. Users can easily store files and objects within the app and, in exchange, it produces a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), which is copied to the clipboard for the user to share and have future instant access.
The above listed cloud platforms are generally free or have a very low monthly fee for more features. This is one of many reasons why people are utilizing their convenient features for personal purposes. Nowadays. however, it has become apparent to businesses and individuals who use the cloud that it is not always safe to share information without ensuring certain security standards are in place.
A recent incident happened to reporter Mat Honan whose entire digital presence was hacked via a loophole in AppleCare. He probably thought that no one would want to access his family pictures or music library, but hackers are usually looking for weak spots that lead to sensitive personal information. Therefore, it’s important that users do their due diligence around security best practices and ensure they are careful in what personal information they store via cloud applications.
Other popular consumer cloud apps include those that serve as “collaboration platforms”. Their main purpose is enabling the sharing and exchange of documents among groups of people. These include Beanstalk, Dropbox, Evernote, and GitHub.
For personal work and organization many users have tried Evernote (mostly preferred by students), which collects clips of data from various sites you're reading or the applications you're using and gathers them into categories that can be synced in the cloud and accessed from multiple devices.
The Salesforce app Do.com includes the level and ease of functionality for file sharing and collaboration that enterprises may have already attached to Outlook by way of add-ons, but which aren't available for everyday Outlook users.
Another example, Joukuu, is a storage maintenance service with a based console that displays the contents of files stored to Google Docs, Box.net, and Dropbox. When you work with many colleagues on a project, and they all subscribe to different services, Joukuu is a true timesaver. And the drag-and-drop functionality of its outside-the-browser app saves you as many as one thousand clicks per day.
Among the most loved cloud applications by music fans is Spotify which offers access via free or paid subscriptions to its music library. This application’s success has developed into a premium mobile service as well as a radio desktop app.
Another favorite is Audiobox.fm, a streaming service that works two ways: by enabling users to store the music they own in the cloud (at the cost of $3.99 for 11 GB) and also play that music from any device using the service's own media player. And let’s not forget services like Last.fm and Pandora, which for many users, are more convenient than music ownership and more interesting than traditional radio.
It’s clear that businesses and personal users alike have many reasons to use the cloud. Not only are cloud consumer apps fun and user-friendly, but they also optimize our daily activities to make life just a little bit easier.
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