Cloud computing for the Office user

(Toney Sisk is a writer for Microsoft Office, and his focus is on Project and Project Server.)

No, computing in the clouds doesn't mean your computer (or you) can suddenly float. But you might ask yourself, Why would anyone want to leave the security of their Microsoft applications to start roaming around in the clouds, anyway? Versatility is one answer. Ease of sharing information, is another. Let's look up at the clouds a little longer to see what's going on with all those servers and services.


Your documents everywhere

Fundamental to cloud computing is the Web browser as the one window into all the documents you care about. For example, with OfficeLive Workspaces, you can view and share Word documents, Excel --spreadsheets, a PowerPoint presentation, or a host of other documents=--from anywhere you might be sitting, whether at home, at work, at the library, or in a hotel room with internet access. Gone are the days of sending e-mail attachments back and forth, or using a thumb-sized memory stick that too often gets lost between the sofa cushions or in the car.

Your computer everywhere

Computing in the clouds gets even more fun when you see your desktop computer in the clouds. No, nothing has been abducted from your home. Welcome to Mesh, your network of your own computers in the sky, viewed in your favorite Web browser. Once your computers are adding to Mesh, you can view any of your computers from all the other computers—and all for free.


Your business everywhere

Or if you're an entrepreneur, you may not know that you can conduct most of your internet business entirely from the clouds, from designing a business website, to analyzing business statistics, to taking orders from customers, to making money from online advertising. OfficeLive Small Business is a Web-based business tool that will send you on your way toward that dream business that you've always thought about. Who knows, maybe you'll be able to quit your day job.

And It doesn't stop at Office applications. Higher up in the clouds are more services and servers that go far beyond Office applications. Welcome to Azure , a services platform for more serious business adventures. Thousands of Web developers are beginning to love the idea of not buying and maintaining computers to run their own internet business, applications, and other services.

Not everything is free, however. It all depends on who is making what up in the clouds. If a developer is creating a encrypted data storage service for clients who are attorneys, well, those storage services might cost something. Someone designing a new social technology that increases a visitor's ability to communicate and collaborate might charge nothing for it. After all, who wants to pay for a new social tool. You get the idea.

Just be careful out there. If you look up at the clouds too much, you might bump into something.