We all know about the clouds that shade the sun and carry rain. Now it’s time to get to know the other cloud—the one that delivers computing power, handy applications, and the ability to share information with others wherever and whenever you need. Like the atmospheric mass that provides its name, the technological phenomenon impacts our daily lives.
Cloud computing sounds mysterious and untrustworthy, but chances are you’re already working, playing and surfing in the cloud. If you’ve purchased an iPhone, Kindle, or any smartphone, tablet or computer recently, you’re probably taking advantage of its benefits. If you’ve downloaded a song from the Internet, chatted on Skype or purchased something from Amazon.com, you’ve used the cloud.
So, what does the cloud mean to you, and how can you harness its power?
It means you can pay your assessments online. You can access association documents and board meeting minutes from wherever you are. It might also mean, for the owners of second homes, that you can tune in to board meetings from the other side of the country.
It means you can work from a remote office without losing a beat. You can collaborate with others on a document without having to e-mail the file back and forth. You can store photos, music and files online without taking up precious space on your computer.
The cloud offers cheaper, stress-free alternatives to expensive hardware and maintenance. All you really need to take advantage of the cloud is reliable Internet access, but you should carefully consider security, privacy, the provider’s reliability and contract terms first.
How secure is your data and information on the cloud? What privacy rules are you subject to? Some cloud services include clauses that allow providers to access and use a customer’s data —often for marketing purposes—and can retain that data long after you’re done using the service.
What if the company providing the cloud service goes out of business? What happens to all your information? Do contact terms lock you into one program or application?
These are important questions to ask. And though the cloud is relatively new, it’s here to stay and will become even more prevalent over time.