Cloud Computing

If you are a freelancer or an independent-location professional, you will surely spend a great deal of time in front of your computer. In fact, computers are something of a lifeline for freelancers, and for many of us managing our workload efficiently would simply be inconceivable without these devices. However, there is a downside to relying on computers for work: things can go wrong when you least expect it, leaving you vulnerable to data losses and causing you to miss deadlines. Of course, having a reliable computer can help prevent this kind of issues, but it is equally important to make sure that you use the most adequate software and applications for your line of work. Cloud computing is one of such applications, and while you may have heard of it, you may not be completely sure about what it is or how can it help your business. Here's an easy-to-understand lowdown on cloud computing.

What is Cloud Computing?

Although it may sound like a mouthful, the principle behind cloud computing couldn't be any simpler. In traditional computing, files, documents, and software are stored into the computer's hard drive. As you know, hard drives can and do fail, causing many inconveniences even if you have been careful enough to backup your data elsewhere. Some freelancers store their data into a home or office network, where different computers are connected to each other and are able to share information between them.

Instead of saving information into a physical device or into a network, cloud computing uses the Internet as a storage device. In this case, the Internet is called 'the cloud' in reference to its rather immaterial nature. In cloud computing, data is stored into a virtual database and the Internet serves as the main link between your computer and such database.

What are the advantages of using cloud computing?

Cloud computing is all about convenience and flexibility. In the first place, cloud computing does not require you to fumble with cables, ports, or complex installation instructions, as all functions are operated remotely, therefore simplifying the life of the end user. You won't even need to install any software, as word processors, spreadsheets, and other common applications are now available in web or cloud versions, which means that you can use them by simply opening them on your browser and without needing to load your computer with space-consuming software.

Many cloud-based applications can be set up so that you can allow other people to access and share information. This is very useful for freelancers who need a hassle-free approach to collaborative work and for those who need to exchange large amounts of information with clients (think graphic designers, architects, etc.).

There's also the advantage of flexibility. Some cloud-based programmes are free to use. Others require the payment of a fee, but charges are usually arranged in a pay-per-use basis, and you can choose between weekly, monthly, or yearly payment plans. If further down the line you need more storage space, you can quickly increase your allowance, and cutting down on space is equally easy. Other benefits include automatic software and security updates, improved data security, and a lower carbon footprint.

Is cloud computing right for me?

Yes, it is. In fact, cloud computing is a fantastic solution for anyone who uses a computer regularly, whether it is for work of for other purposes. Freelancers and location-independent professionals can greatly benefit from cloud computing applications, as these eliminate the need of carrying around additional devices that can be easily lost or damaged, such as external hard drives, USBs, and memory cards. Cloud computing gives you remote access to those important files that you need to complete a job. In addition, you will never have to worry again about corrupted files, misplaced folders, or the possibility of losing confidential data. To sum up, cloud computing opens up a number of possibilities and makes your working day easier, as you will be able to work anywhere and anytime, which as you know, is one of the best things about being an independent freelancer.

Cloud computing applications

Cloud computing is so popular that you may already be using some cloud-based applications without realising it. Services like iCloud, Microsoft's Skydrive, and Google Drive are good examples, as they take the concept of mobile work to a whole new level. Some of these cloud resources can be used not only on desktop computers and laptops, but also on tablets and smartphones so that you can be truly mobile.

Other useful cloud-based applications that freelancers often use include Sage One (expense management and invoice tracking); Adobe Connect (video-conferencing and exchange of rich-media files); Fresh Books (invoice creation and online billing); Toggl (time tracking and project management); and Mozy (a useful data back-up and recovery application).