How Cloud Computing Simplifies Your Holidays

Holiday shopping has a lot in common with The Matrix. As Neo (Keanu Reeves) seeks to solve the ever-present philosophical question of “Who am I?” he encounters his nemesis, Agent Smith, a powerful rogue computer virus with the uncanny ability to steal others’ identities and wreak havoc on the world. That’s where science fiction imitates life: One in five Americans has had his or her identity stolen.

With the holiday season in full swing, plenty of other “Smiths” are waiting out there, ready to hijack your own identity as you navigate the online environment. Fortunately, cloud computing -- the current Internet technology that allows you to access all your programs and documents from anywhere -- has your back. Here are five holiday hallmarks the cloud allows you to do more safely:

1. Shop
Wise Web retailers have made the Internet a cushy, safe place to buy, thanks to robust cloud-based security software that protects your privacy with automatic encryption, phishing blockers and key-logger kryptonite. A massive malware database continuously analyzes, detects and stops potential threats in the cloud before they get anywhere near your PC.

2. Socialize
’Tis the season to be social, and cloud computing makes it seamless, with instant updates and access to your social sites and tweets anytime, anywhere, from any PC or connected mobile device. It might be too late to mail Aunt Jane a greeting card, but even from your cozy ski lodge, you can access your home PC or photo-sharing space via the cloud and send her a customized e-card. (Added bonus: You save yourself the unpleasant phone call and some trees in the process.) What’s more, cloud privacy protection blocks adware access to your profile information and hides your online activities from marketers and cybercriminals.

3. Manage Money

Not that long ago, many people relied on holiday savings accounts to prepare for the gift-giving season. These days, money can be transferred, monitored and withdrawn in a millisecond -- no passbook required. Online banking from the cloud is speedy, safe and secure, with account number encryption, private password auto fill, and online fraud monitoring and prevention.

4. Travel
So maybe the cloud can’t take away all your holiday travel stress: It can’t cut you to the front of the line or buy tickets for you. But in all other ways, the cloud is your omnipresent personal assistant, helping you stay in touch while you globetrot or motor-hop. Among the many things cloud computing helps you with while you’re away are the following:

  • Information can be synced and consolidated across multiple computers, your smartphone or mobile device. This way, all the little details -- itinerary, reservation confirmations, address book, weather updates, roadmaps, travel docs -- that go with planning travel but somehow don’t make it with you on the plane stay with you.
  • Images and video can be captured, stored and shared instantly.  Even if you lose your camera or your hard drive crashes, you simply need access to the Internet. And voila: The cloud keeps all your precious memories safe inside.

5. Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions
A new year is upon us, and you have yet to achieve last year’s resolution to lose 20 pounds, save that nest egg or build a tree house in the backyard. Keeping promises to yourself can be challenging, especially when they’re jotted down on a Post-it note or buried in the pages of an old journal. Why not let the cloud carry your intentions for you? Better yet -- gulp -- why not employ technology to hold you accountable in 2011? Cloud computing is the perfect way to ensure that all your nifty new projects actually have a due date. Use shareware like Basecamp or online calendars to write down your goals, set reminders (3, 6 or 9 months in advance) and track your progress.  And by all means, share your good intentions with your friends and family -- all from the fluffy, supportive comfort of your cloud.