THE INTERNET CLOUD deserves mention as the sixth most valuable item of technology in my life. I use the internet for processing power (e.g., a virtual learning environment powered by Moodle). I store all sort of data on the internet (audio files on podcasting.ie, important work information at PutPlace.com, photos at Flickr and complex phone information at ZYB.com). Without thinking about cloud computing functionality, I visit web sites whose widgets get their power from Web 2.0 capability. Things weren't always this way.
Storing Audio Cheaply and Efficiently. In the late 90s, when trying to figure out a way to store sound clips, cassette collections and digital audio downloads, I just dragged and dropped the content onto Zip disks or CDs. After a few years, it was simpler just to set up a chron job and to let FTP-Voyager shift gigabytes of content onto a web storage location. Today, I know it's cheaper and more reliable to choose an online storage location for my stuff. I can also run my MP3 tracks across the internet as playlists, letting a server in the cloud deliver music to friends or to my earbuds while at work.
Blogging from the Cloud. When I first started with Radio Userland as my blogging interface, I thought I needed the security of keeping my stuff on my local hard drive and online. With a small weblog, that's fine. But when you have more than 2000 blog posts, it gets a little ropy maintaining a robust local database of your content. I experienced problems keeping the data clean and synchronised. By 2003, I was totally in the cloud with my blog, using Six Apart servers in California to serve up content I write from Ireland. On top of those dispersed assets, I also send nearly half of my content to my blog via e-mail, using cloud computing to sort out that process.
Teaching in the Cloud. John Jennings deserves a gold star for selecting and tweaking Moodle, my virtual learning environment. As a proper VLE, Moodle can do things (i.e., record attendance, monitor activities assigned online, accept student submissions, provide feedback). Many of the pedagogically strong activities facilitated by Moodle take pressure off classroom time and ensure we can effectively target students with real needs. That means the cloud is doing some heavy lifting.
Intelligent Sync after Confident Storage. I shift files from my computer to safe online storage arranged by PutPlace and I have flashed hundreds of contacts onto new mobile phones through the trustworthy synchronicity offered by ZYB. A few years ago, both of these services would have been tedious, if not impossible. The big change is the broadband speed I now enjoy at home.
With pipes getting bigger and storage space getting cheaper, the cloud will continue as one of my top 10 technology items.