Keep your head in the cloud

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A line from Joni Mitchell's song "Clouds" says, "I really don't know clouds at all." I have the same feeling about cloud-based computing.

Businesses are relying on this technology more and more. The principal is appealing. You can put all of your data "on the cloud” and it becomes available from anywhere. It becomes possible, with a handheld tablet computer and an internet connection, to design a project, spec it out, cost it, show it to the client, write and sign the contract, and even transfer a deposit directly into your bank account, all while sitting at the client's dining table. It's no wonder this is becoming so appealing.

But it's not all sweetness and light. We need to be aware of what is going on behind the curtain. The "cloud" is a warehouse full of computers and the apps are not always free. For one thing, extra charges are levied for data transfer and this can add up quick. The apps often communicate with servers even when you are not actually using them and the charges are piling up without your even realizing it. Ads that you see on your device are what support the free app and those ads count as data transfer.

A friend got tripped up bad by one software vendor. He subscribed to an online payroll service. Everything was going fine until the service informed him that he was going to need a software upgrade. He figured he could get along just fine with his current version but one day he discovered that the was locked out of his cloud-based payroll data files. The software vendor told him that he would have to pay $800 for the upgrade in order for his account to be reactivated. So his payroll data was literally being held for ransom.

My message: Be aware of what is really happening and cover your back!

D.D.

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