7: Cloud computing

What is Cloud Computing?

Photo of clouds in black and white

CC http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/

The term “cloud computing” refers to a new approach to computing that uses distant servers for data storage and management, rather than using software on personal computers or saving to local servers that require a team of IT technicians to maintain and repair. This course is an example of cloud computing which uses wikifoundry which all contributors are able to access remotely.

Watch this Commoncraft video for a brief overview of cloud computing: Cloud Computing in Plain English.

The growth of cloud computing

With the huge growth of smartphones, tablets, and ereaders we have seen a greater use of cloud computing. Let us take a couple of devices and have a look at the use of cloud computing.

Ereaders: A lot of e-readers now have built-in wi-fi. Amazon’s kindle devices make use of cloud computing to store all of your purchases ‘in the cloud’ so they are always available. You can even install the Kindle app on any other device so which again access’s the cloud to read your purchased books.

Smartphones: many apps make use of cloud computing allowing synching between the phone, laptop or any other device you may have. For example you can use a service called ‘Dropbox’ which allows you to store files in the cloud and access them via apps on devices. Now you can start a document on a home computer, open it on a smartphone to re-edit it, and then acces the saved file again back at the office. You do not have to worry about saving things to local devices, or on USB drives.

Ipad & other tablet devices: The same points made about smartphones, applies equally with the Ipad and other tablet devices.

How libraries use cloud computing Any library that has a Facebook page, a Twitter, Youtube or Flickr account could be said to be in the cloud. The cloud can also be used for collaboration and working more efficiently (such as this course). Online tools will cover some of these applications later. There are important legal, privacy and security considerations to bear in mind when using cloud computing. This will be discussed in The legal bit.

There is an extensive list of powerful tools for librarians which you can have a look at. Below we have picked out just a few of these.

Google Apps is a cloud-based productivity suite that includes tools for email, calendars and documents. The Los Angeles Public Library is the largest library to make the switch to Google, in a cost-saving deal that phased out Microsoft Office products in 2009.

Basecamp is among the most popular web-based project management and collaboration tools. It tracks to-do lists, allows file uploads, archives messages, and can be integrated with other Cloud services using apps like Zapier and IFTTT. According to Barbara Lewis, Coordinator for Digital Collections at University of South Florida Tampa, her library uses Basecamp “to plan, track and report project statuses” in the daily management of its busy library.

Delicious.com is a great place to curate and share a link directory. Use tags for special research projects. Swiss Army Librarian has a guide to using Delicious to create a Library Subject Guide.

Urlist make it easy to organize and share lists of links. Create a topical list of links, divide it into subsections, and share the whole list with a single short URL. Librarian’s Quest posted this article on how to create a reference list using the 2013 Newbery Caldecott award winners as an example.

Google Hangouts takes any event live in front of a global audience. Schedule events in advance to let guests RSVP their attendance. Record a Hangout for sharing later on YouTube. Johannes Neuer, associate director of marketing for NYPL praised Hangouts in this article from American Libraries Magazine about how librarians can use social media.


  1. Think about what you and your authority do that is “in the cloud”.
  2. Have a look at the list of  powerful tools for librarians and think about making use of one of them

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