We are all hearing this concept of “the cloud” when it comes to computers these days. “The cloud” simply means that your files are not stored directly on your computer. They reside on computers elsewhere called servers. You access your files through the internet. The benefits are enormous for users and organizations. Here’s some of the biggest benefits to working within “the cloud”:
- No need to worry about loss of information. Since your information is not stored on your computer, even if your computer goes down your files are all protected and easily accessible from any internet connected computer. Think about the possibilities of scanning parishioner certificates and storing them in “the cloud” (without sharing them publicly obviously). How easy would that be to access and quickly respond to requests or not worry about losing papers?
- Greater choice of equipment and reduced costs for equipment. Since the only requirement for being able to work in “the cloud” is a computer with internet connection, you can use any computer. Or you can use multiple styles of computers such as Windows, Macs, etc. and multiple browsers (i.e. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, etc.). There is also no need to purchase software or upgrades for basic computing like word processing, spreadhseets, presentation, photos, etc. Google Apps, for example, provides all of these.
- Easily Collaborate and Share Information. Sharing information amongst computers is nothing new, but it has been cumbersome in the past such as attachments or the need for costly servers. “The cloud” allows you to easily share files and information such as calendar dates with others quickly and easily by simply linking rather than attaching. Online documents can also be easily edited by multiple parties creating an updated version online for viewers instantly. For example, our ‘Welcome Booklet’ for our parish is available as a link on our parish website. In the background, this is actually a word processing document and any changes that need to be made are simply made within the document and it is automatically updated for viewers who click the link on the website.
- Enter once and update everywhere you use the information. One of the things I have always been bothered with in the past is the ‘syncing’ of information. Typically this had to be done by connecting a device to a computer and basically hope the information comes over correctly. Plus the most updated information was dependent upon you actually remembering to do ‘the sync’. Working in “The cloud” automatically updates your information everywhere. So when I enter my work schedule in my online calendar, it is automatically available on my mobile phone and shared out to my wife. Likewise, if I edit or enter anything on my calendar on my mobile phone it is updated everywhere. For parishes, this allows you to create custom calendars for ministries such as Lectors. When you enter the schedule, it would automatically update the calendar embedded on your website. Enter-once-use-everywhere. I love it.
Granted, parishes would want to keep at least one computer that maintains their database of parishioners. Other than that, things are wide open for users. Watch the video below that demonstrates “the cloud” concept through Google’s pilot program for Chrome OS laptops or click here to get a basic overview of ‘cloud computing’ from Google: