Moving to the cloud


There’s a lot of fuzz around Cloud computing in the commercial market. On the other hand, the private use of Cloud based services might just as well be relevant, or even better since the maintenance of personal storage and services is sometimes hard for a home user.

As I have gone completely into the cloud, mainly based on Microsoft’s Windows Live! and Office Live! services, I’ve found it very useful to have my personal data and service online. The following describes how I’ve chosen to use the different services for different purposes.

And the best part? It’s ALL FOR FREE! Well, all except the domain name “wikmark.name”, which costs me about 15 dollars a year.

THIS ARTICLE IS OUT OF DATE! NEW REVISION WILL SOON BE PUBLISHED!

Web publishing

I’ve customized a web site, currently available as http://web.wikmark.name (this site), using Microsoft Office Live! Small Business tools. This service is free and based on SharePoint, which I’m quite familiar with. The limitation of 5 registered users is more than enough for me and my closest family, and if I should require more users it’s available for purchase. The service is fairly easy to use and may be customized with custom designs and custom features.

Blog

For blogging purposes I use the Windows Live! Workspace blog feature. It’s not the best blog tool around, but since it’s fairly well integrated with other Live! services, I decided to use it. To publish posts on the blog I use Windows Live! writer, a free blog editing tool from Microsoft, and some plug-ins. With Office 2007 and 2010 it’s also possible to use Word as the blog editing tool, but with some limitations compared to Live! writer.

Collaboration

I fancy SharePoint a lot and previously I hosted my own SharePoint server to be able to collaborate with friends, family and colleagues. Now I’ve moved all relevant content to the Microsoft Office Live! platform. The Office Live! platform provides both workspace features for easy sharing and collaboration and a complete SharePoint Services environment for more advanced and customizable use.

The best part of using the Office Live! platform is that it’s fully integrated with Microsoft Office. With a tiny addition installed on the computer I’m able to open and save documents directly in the cloud.

File storage and sharing

This was a difficult one. There’s a lot of file sharing services out there and they do more or less the same. Unfortunately none of these services are available as an integrated network storage device such as a webdav share. Anyway, since I use Live! for all other purposes the natural thing to do was to use Live! SkyDrive. With 25 GB of free storage available, it will take some time until I’ve reached my limit.

E-mail and messaging

Having used MSN mail for several years, it’s obvious I continued with Windows Live! mail. With the Live! mail connector I’m also able to use Outlook the same way as I would if it was connected to a local Exchange server. Since my wife use Live! mail as well, we are able to share contacts and calendars between us and have digitalized our personal life.

Synchronization and backup

I use Live! Mesh to synchronize files and folders from my personal computers, and thru the shared desktop feature in Live! Mesh I also have remote access to all my computers as long as I have an Internet connection and a web browser. The only issue here might be the security. Live! Mesh installs some client software similar to an agent which enables seamless access to Cloud based folders and files locally on my computer. Since I have multiple computers, it’s very easy for me to always have my personal data up to date on all computers.

Mobile synchronization

I’ve used Windows mobile based devices for the past 6 years and will continue to do so for several years to come. The great thing about Windows Mobile and the use of Windows Live! is the integration. I synchronize contacts, calendar items, tasks and e-mail on my device with the Exchange server at my work. Additionally, I’m able to synchronize my private contacts and e-mail from Live! mail. The only thing missing is my personal calendar which I maintain on Live! mail.

In addition, Microsoft released a new service for Windows based mobile phones called My Phone. This service allows me to synchronize my entire phone to the cloud and have a backup of everything on it including pictures, videos, call history, text messages, mail, contacts and more. The only thing I can’t synchronize is installed binary applications on the device, but do I really need that? Since this service comes with a web based UI, I’m able to use my mobile phone data from any PC with an internet connection and a web browser.

Single sign-on and authentication

Since more or less all services use the LiveID authentication services I’m only required to maintain one single ID to access all the services in use. With the Live! toolbar and the LiveID local authentication service I’m also able to have transparent access to the services without the need to authenticate over and over again. The exception is Office Live!, which does not support the Live! toolbar’s local authentication service.

Additional services

Even if Microsoft’s Live! services cover most of what you need in a personal cloud environment, there’s still some services which I chose to get from other sites. Even so, the integration between the different online services are getting better and better and the user experience is more unified and seamless than ever before. Typically I use Facebook for personal and social networking, twitter for short comments and LinkedIn to maintain my professional network. With the integration services available, I’m able to link and publish content between Windows Live!, Facebook and Twitter, and I expect that LinkedIn is going to enable integration sometime in the near future.

Wishes for the future

Even if cloud based features and services have gone a long way, there’s still several issues I hope will be improved. One of the most important is tight integration. With the use of Windows Live! I have the ability to store files at least 4 different places and they’re not synchronized or integrated in any way. This has become kind of a pain in the “behind” and it’s sometimes difficult to decide where to place files of different type and content. If these file storing and file sharing services was integrated, it would have been a lot easier to use the cloud efficiently.

Another important issue is the integration with the desktop. The ability to have file stores available directly in Windows should be an easy feature to deploy, especially since all services are web based and the use of WebDav is quite simple.

I also would like to have the ability to synchronize my personal calendar from Windows Live! Mail to my Windows Mobile device. Unfortunately this is not supported, but I would think this will be available in the future.

As SaaS (Software as a Services) becomes more and more available, I hope that the Office Web Applications also will be available for personal use. To be able to do rich content editing with just a web browser on the client would be fantastic, and maybe a boost for the "Surf board" computers.

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: