Cloud Computing Stretches To The Stratosphere

Jim Luff
Posted on November 3, 2011

As computer technology has evolved, we have amassed a variety of computing devices we use daily: office computers, home computers, notebooks, smartphones, servers and tablets. Each is loaded with software applications such as Microsoft Word that can be used to write a document. But your ability to access a stored document may be limited to what device you are using and whether it has the application software needed to retrieve it. Imagine saving a document and being able to get it no matter where you are or what device you are using. If you change a document using your home computer, the document can be accessed from the office computer tomorrow without emailing it to yourself. Every change you make, every document you create, modify or delete is kept safe in the “clouds” instead of your own computer. If you add an appointment to your calendar while in New York, your office staff in California can immediately see the appointment that you just created using your iPhone.

Where are the clouds?
You may wonder where to find these clouds. You may already be using them. Anyone who has a Gmail, AOL or Yahoo account is already computing in the clouds. Facebook and other social media networks are other prime examples of cloud computing. You can access these accounts from anywhere at any time and they are fully functional whether using your smartphone, tablet or computer. PC Magazine predicts in the future a device such as a digital photo frame will become a “photo hub.” Pictures stored on the frame in your living room will be available on all your devices, including your TV, since all images can be shared via cloud technology.

FASTTRAK Technologies CEO Eddie McCoy says cloud computing gives technology users more flexibility in adjusting their company infrastructure based on economic conditions.
FASTTRAK Technologies CEO Eddie McCoy says cloud computing gives technology users more flexibility in adjusting their company infrastructure based on economic conditions.

Basically, cloud computing is using someone else’s servers, such as Google, to store, maintain, and access your data. Companies such as Google, Yahoo and AOL maintain vast computer centers worldwide where the computers constantly sync data from one location to the next. When you check your Gmail account, the server closest to your device is located and provides the information requested. If you delete an email after reading it, the server you just deleted from will delete the same email from all other servers around the world and remain synced together. Even if a natural disaster struck one location, it is impossible to wipe out your data because of the duplication of multiple servers in many locations. FASTTRAK Technologies, an industry pioneer in cloud computing, uses Microsoft’s SQL Azure Cloud Global Data Centers that have been strategically situated around the world to maximize global reach, says Eddie McCoy, CPA and CEO/Founder of FASTTRAK Technologies.  

Data sharing
Have you ever wanted to show someone a photo that you know you have but can’t find on the device you are using? Maybe it is in the Pictures Folder on your home computer or maybe it is at the office or even on your phone. With cloud computing, you can access it from any device anywhere and store it on a cloud server instead of on any of your devices.
If you have a document written in Word, you only can access that document if the device you are using has the Word application program on it to open the Word document. With cloud computing, your application program (Word) is also in the cloud. So you can access and open your document from any device and designate any Web-enabled printer to be a part of your cloud network. You can print a document in your office although you may be thousands of miles away. All of your contact information can be shared with anyone you want by giving them access to your cloud. If you change a telephone number, everyone that has access to the contact information is updated at the same time the moment you make the change. Likewise, you can purchase a song from iTunes from your smartphone and the moment it is downloaded you can play it from your home computer, your office computer, or your phone with no further interaction on your part.

What about privacy?
Just like Facebook, there are privacy controls. Data is encrypted to prevent unauthorized use or access just the same as your bank uses it for online access to your bank account. For Jess Sandhu of A&A Limousine & Bus Service in Seattle, security was a main concern in moving to the clouds, but he felt data security was very safe in the clouds.

Cloud computing makes things simple
Having all your application programs in one place provides the ability to access anything you need from any device with an Internet browser. For Sanhu, cost was a major influence in his decision to implement FASTTRAK Technologies’ Cloud Livery System.

“Instead of getting a faster, bigger server and using a network, it is cheaper to buy a basic computer for $500 and run FASTTRAK Cloud Livery,” Sandhu says. “You do not need an IT guy, and if the PC goes bad, throw it away and buy another one.”

Seattle operator Jesse Sandhu makes use of the FASTTRAK Cloud Livery System that saves his company money on information technology.

Seattle operator Jesse Sandhu makes use of the FASTTRAK Cloud Livery System that saves his company money on information technology.

Sandhu has been a FASTTRAK user since 2003, so when the cloud platform was announced last summer, he knew he would make the switch. Any device with access to the Internet is all you need to get started. You do not need servers or devices loaded with memory nor multi-gigabyte hard drives. All computing and storage is done in the clouds. Just eliminating a server in your office can save the cost of the server and the electricity used to run it 24/7. In fact, you do not need to turn on any device unless you are using it. “If we have learned nothing else during the past four years, the need to economically shrink the infrastructure of an organization is equally important to the need to expand it during periods of economic growth, and [that has] made cloud computing more popular than ever,” McCoy says. Laying off an employee in hard times can render his or her expensive computer obsolete.  

Getting started

Google Cloud Connect offers a free 30-day trial and costs about $5 a month after your trial. There are two basic ways to get started.
If you use the Microsoft Office Suite with programs such as Word, Outlook and Excel, Google will add a “plug-in” to your computer that will automatically begin saving these documents to the clouds. The daily usage remains the same except when saving a document; you are prompted to sync the document when changes have been made and this document now becomes the “master document.” All future changes are made to this document in the clouds.

Google also offers its suite of applications called Google Apps similar to Microsoft products. Each document has a URL (website address) assigned to it for others to access only if you choose to share the URL with them, and even then you can decide if they are allowed to only read it or edit the document as well. Any changes are tracked and documented so you always can cancel a change. Microsoft SharePoint is another cloud system.

Industry benefits
Being able to take a reservation from any place in the world using any device is the biggest benefit. Once a reservation is taken, many people may need access to it such as another reservationist, a dispatcher, and the accounting personnel. These people also can perform their jobs from anywhere at any time.

Related Topics: cloud computing, computer software, computerized dispatching solutions, FASTTRAK, technology

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