The first step in spending 30 days relying on cloud-based tools and services is to explore my options and choose the ones I want to use to work and live online. Email and writing are the most crucial functions of my PC for me, so I am going to start by finding suitable online options for email and writing. Actually, I planned to start there, but I ran into a little hiccup--my PC won't cooperate.
My Dell XPS M1330 may be on its last legs. The CPU is constantly maxed at 100 percent, making the system slow and unresponsive. Just opening Microsoft Word up--never mind actually writing anything--could take two or three minutes. I spent the last couple days reinstalling Windows 7 assuming that a fresh install would do the trick, but it doesn't seem like it so far.
This is where the cloud comes to the rescue, though, so it's actually sort of apropos for this month. I am writing this post from my iPad 2. I have already done 30 Days With the iPad so I know that it can fill in for my notebook in a pinch. With iOS 5 and iCloud, I now have the added bonus that what I am typing in Pages on my iPad 2 will automatically be synced with iCloud and to my iPhone as well. Once I get a functional laptop again (I think I hear a MacBook Air calling my name), I can just log into iCloud and this document will be available to me.
To me, this is one of the most significant advantages of using the cloud. I am not tied to my currently crippled (or possibly dying) Dell notebook. I can use other devices like my iPad, or I could just borrow a Web-connected PC from someone else, and I can continue working and remain productive. When I get my Dell restored, or replace it with some other notebook, all of my data will be instantly available to me because it is not tied to any specific hardware.
Had this same thing happened a year or two ago, it would be a much more arduous undertaking to get up and running again. The fact that I have my files and data synced and available to me online makes things much easier.
Had this same thing happened a month from now, I would probably have gotten back into the groove much more quickly. I still spent a couple days stubbornly trying to troubleshoot and revive my Dell PC. Once I decided to look for alternatives, I went to the iPad 2 which isn't exactly a cloud-based tool, and iCloud which isn't the only cloud data storage and syncing option available. If I were more committed to the cloud I could have just picked up any Web-connected device and jumped on to Google Docs, or Office 365 and accessed data from Box.net or Dropbox, and never missed a beat.
Starting with the Day 3 post, I will begin taking a closer look at the options available for cloud-based email and productivity suites. By the time this 30 Days series is over, I expect that next time my PC croaks I will barely even notice.