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Up In The Cloud: Working With Cloud Apps
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Up In The Cloud: Working With Cloud Apps - Executive Leadership Articles

Up In The Cloud: Working With Cloud Apps

Executive Leadership Articles

Up In The Cloud: Working With Cloud Apps

You already know that at its most basic level, the cloud is an accessible-from-anywhere storage system that gives you access to your files wherever you have a connection, either at a computer or through a mobile device. However, it can be so much more than that, and today we’ll take a quick look at another feature of the cloud: applications that not only store your work in the cloud, but take advantage of the cloud’s computing power. If all you’re using the cloud for is storage, you may be surprised at how many other things you can do with it for little or no extra cost.

To review, the cloud is basically what we call storing files on the internet. If you have ever emailed a copy of an important document to yourself just so you could have quick access to it wherever you went, you’ve taken advantage of the cloud. In fact, if you use a web browser to read email (as opposed to using mail-reading software you install on your computer), the emails themselves are being stored in the cloud. Cloud storage services (such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive) let you store very large numbers of files similarly, without the email interface. Point a web browser to your cloud’s location on the web, log in, and see all your files from any computer or mobile device in the world.

One step up from cloud storage are the cloud apps: apps you use in your web browser that save your work automatically to your cloud storage. You’ve probably used (or seen in action) such groundbreaking apps as Google Docs, Google Sheets, Microsoft Office 365, and Photoshop.com. These programs work without your having to download and install software on your computer, because they use your web browser as an access point to the software on computers that run the services. When you add a few sentences to a Google Doc, for example, your computer is effectively just the terminal that gives you access to a Google computer somewhere else, which is recording and saving your new words.

Among the powerful features of cloud applications is their conduciveness to collaboration and sharing in real time. Since you’re accessing some gigantic computer in the cloud somewhere, rather than operating off the computer in front of you, you can allow others to access the same work in the same cloud, each of you working together on a single document, updated in real time. This is where many people stop: right at the office-type apps such as word processing documents, spreadsheets, and slide presentations. Yet there is a lot more out there taking advantage of the same cloud storage and computing power.

Google is leading the way with third-party apps that connect directly to your Google Drive. You have to authorize each third-party connection, but once you do, you have functionality similar to Google Docs, but with an enormous range of applications. Databases, file conversion, PDF creation, video capture and editing, audio capture and editing, mind-mapping, games, wireframe mockups, whiteboards, photo editing, media streaming, and code editing can be accessed in your web browser and saved in your Google Drive, just as all those Google Docs you’re using. Many offer real-time sharing and collaboration, some offer offline capability (for when you don’t have access to decent wifi), and most are free. Some come with limited free accessibility with extra features unlocked upon purchase. If Google Docs is missing some feature you’ve always wanted, you’ll find at least a dozen alternate third-party options, and the same goes for Sheets and Slides.

You can browse available apps by looking through the Google Chrome store and selecting for “Google Drive Apps.” You’ll be presented with a long list of categorized apps. Hovering your pointer over one of the apps gives a brief description. Clicking the logo opens a new page with a more detailed description (including an explanation of what kind of access the app has to your Google Drive) and customer reviews. Alternately, from within Google Drive, you can click NEW, float your pointer over MORE, and click on CONNECT MORE APPS. You’ll see a panel similar to the Chrome store. Floating your pointer over a logo will give you a CONNECT option, which connects the app to your Drive. You can always disconnect any apps later if something turns out not to be quite what you had in mind.

As always, there are cautions to consider. You are giving access to your Google Drive to someone not affiliated with Google, so a certain amount of trust comes into play. Take a look at customer reviews to see if there have been any issues before you connect, and search for online reviews to see what professional users’ experiences have been.

If there’s an application you use on your computer, chances are very good that there’s a cloud app you could be using instead. If for no other reason, it’s worth investigating third-party apps just so you can get a better sense of how the cloud works and how seemingly limitless its possibilities are, because even these apps are not the extent of the cloud’s power. Find something interesting or fun, dip your toes in, and see how cloud apps can make your life and work better.


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Up In The Cloud: Working With Cloud Apps - Executive Leadership Articles

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