Once upon a time (don't all good stories begin this way?), all of a person's computer programs and data were kept on floppy disks or on the computer's hard drive. These days, there is a massive movement to "cloud computing", where a user's programs and data are stored on remote computers and accessed over the internet.
- online email like Hotmail, Yahoo! mail, or Gmail
- online office applications and document storage like Google Docs or Zoho services
- online games like Runescape and Webkinz
- online photo-sharing services like Flickr and Snapfish
What does this mean for us?
There are both pros and cons to cloud computing. Among the pros: your data and applications are available from almost anywhere, users can easily collaborate, and many services are provided for cheap or even free. Some cons: you're trusting someone else to keep your data safe, and your applications and data are only as available and reliable as the online service and your internet connection.
What does this mean for libraries?
- New service options. Where before you might have installed software to do a task, there now are many online services that allow you to complete the same task.
- New data storage options. Where before you might have saved everything to a floppy or USB pen, there now are many online services that provide storage.
- Mobile access. Because the processing and storage are out in the cloud, more and more users will be accessing web-based services from their smaller, lower-powered, mobile devices. Where before your users came to the library in person, called you on the phone, or accessed your website from their home PC, your users may now look for you on social networking sites, peruse your website, or send you text messages all from their phones.
- Concerns about privacy. If library staff are using online services, what concerns might you have about the privacy of library/patron data being handled by a 3rd party?
If you're interested in reading more about the Cloud Computing trend, here are a few links to get you started.