Cloud computing for writers is one of those things that you’ll either love or hate. For those of you who haven’t come across the concept of cloud computing before, it is basically the use of computer software and resources that is internet-based rather than resident on your PC. A simple example would be Google Docs, which allows you to use online word processing, spreadsheet and other applications, and also store the documents you create online.
There is no doubt that some writers can and do benefit from cloud computing. Writers who spend lots of time away from their desks can use a netbook computer to access the internet and use software applications that they might not want clogging the netbook itself. Storing documents online also makes it possible to retrieve any document whilst on the move without having to have them on your portable device. This means that losing the device or having it stolen wouldn’t result in your work getting into the hands of someone else, though obviously the loss or theft itself would still be extremely annoying.
Cloud computing enthusiasts also point out that storing data online is a great way to keep backup copies of your documents so that if your main PC crashes you can restore from the online copies. Services such as Livedrive are commonly used for this purpose, and although you need to pay a subscription fee to enjoy them, they offer a generous amount of virtual storage space and a high level of security.
I think that cloud computing can be very useful for writers on the move, but I also think that cloud computing for writers has its drawbacks. First, I doubt that any form of online storage can ever be completely secure; if hackers can get into Facebook and Google then they could potentially get into an online file storage system, and the means your work may end up being seen by others.
Another drawback of cloud computing is that it is, by its very nature, dependent on the internet. Although WiFi coverage is improving, and mobile internet service provision is on the increase there are still plenty of places where you can’t get WiFi access or a mobile signal, and that effectively prevents you from accessing your online applications or data.
In the future I think these drawbacks will be resolved to the extent that cloud computing becomes a regular part of life for everyone, but in the meantime I would personally use cloud computing services only if I would be happy for my data to find its way into the public domain should such services be compromised. That makes cloud computing good for notes and schedules, but probably not something I would use to write or store my latest manuscript or contacts list.