Traveling With The Cloud: Do I Even Need My Computer On The Road?

Over the last few months, I have made a valiant effort to put everything in the cloud. I had tried before and failed. It all started with Apple’s MobileMe that I really never did get to work quite right but ended with a Google Drive life full of wonder.

Now, I have spreadsheets, emails, photos and documents all in one place, safe and secure on my Google Drive – a free file storage and synchronization service by Google introduced last April.

So, when I travel, do I really need my computer? Can’t I just find an Internet cafe in Rome, Topeka or any other place I might travel that has an available signal and terminal?

We asked computer expert and certified Apple tech Christopher Rauschnot what he thought about cloud-based computing, the Internet access it would take to get to that cloud-based information and what to be on the watch for when traveling. What came of that interview are a number of tips that can make working from the cloud happen, and some reasons why that’s not always the best idea.

Just Because You Can, Does Not Mean You Should- While I probably could accomplish whatever it was I wanted to do, remotely, with the assistance of the cloud, it’s a risky proposition. “Using someone else’s Internet connection and computer, to work in the cloud, presents many issues such as security, accessibility and backup,” says Rauschnot of Las Vegas, Nevada.

One In My Hand Is Worth Two In The Cloud– If I chose to bring along a tablet or use a local Internet connection, that could work. But what about when I can’t get a connection?
“If you have a personal computer that you can take along on a trip, (you will have) the files needing to be worked on are right there in front of you, sans connection,” says Rauschnot who is fully vested with Google+, adding “But if your files are on Google’s Drive service for instance, you have to find a computer wherever you are and log in to the system.”

Big Brother Is Watching And Restricting– “Google is really good about preventing unauthorized access to people’s accounts from foreign connections, even if it is you, using the proper password,” warns Rauschnot, @24K on Twitter. So there is a chance that security protocols in place to protect you may prevent you from accessing sensitive material, safely stored in the cloud

You Don’t Know Where That Came From Or Where It Has Been– “The computers at cyber cafes around the world might have key logging software that records every keystroke,” explains Rauschnot, “or there could be screen sharing software recording what’s being visited.”

When Sharing Is Not A Desirable Social Skill– Friend or not, intercepting a photo showing where someone is in the world can open the floodgates of spam, if not identity theft. “Screen sharing software is especially sneaky because someone could be sitting at a computer thousands of miles away watching people visit social networking sites, financial institutions or anything else personal.”

B.Y.O.I. (Bring Your Own Internet) “Travelers should consider bringing along their own connection to the Internet,” suggests Rauschnot. “Companies are now selling Wi-Fi hotspots that operate worldwide.” Also suggested is something I actually do; “setup an international data plan on a cellphone and share the connection to the computer.” It takes some guesswork to get the plan just right, avoiding hefty overage fees, but it works.

Ask For Security- “If you must connect at a cyber cafe with their Internet connection, it’s best to ask for a hotspot that is secured with WPA2 level password, or use an Ethernet
,” says Rauschnot. This would cut out the opportunity for thieves to grab your signal out of the air. “To protect you while using someone else’s network, only log into websites that provide an https connection.”

OMG! Sharing With Friends Could Be Risky Business- “If you connect to Facebook while on your computer without the https connection, software is out there that allows almost anyone with a web browser on the same network as you, to take over the account,” warns Rauschnot. I know a whole lot of travelers who do that all the time.

Taking a moment to consider computing needs while traveling can eliminate a bunch of potential problems. As Rauschnot suggests, portable Wi-Fi hotspot data plans are a good choice to help with security, allowing us to access our cloud-based information. But having files along for the ride on our own computer allows access without an Internet connection.

“Personal computers may be bulky while traveling, but in this case, they can be helpful to secure your information,” concludes Rauschnot. “Use the computer you know and the cloud as a backup.”

One note: Google Drive gives users 5GB of space for free. Additional storage, 25 GB up to 16 TB, can be bought via a monthly subscription plan.

That’s one kind of Google Drive. Here’s another:

[Photo Credit: Flickr user kelsey_lovefusionphoto]

A Peek into the Future of Dubai

Today, the city of Dubai announced it has purchased the Queen Elizabeth 2, “one of the world’s most majestic cruise liners,” to convert into a luxury hotel. The QE2 will be completely renovated and parked at the world’s largest man-made island, Palm Jumeirah. The restoration process will stay true to the original design of the ship, and a museum will be built inside to educate visitors on the liner’s legacy.

What’s else in store for the booming city of Dubai? Here’s a quick rundown of current, future, and conceptual projects in the United Arab Emirates’s oasis in the desert.

We talked about it earlier today, but the outrageousness of the resort complex dubbed The Cloud makes it worthy of another mention. Nadim Karam, a Lebanese architect, presented this resort-in-the-sky concept at the International Design Forum in Dubai last month. The actual resort will resemble a cloud floating 300 meters in the air, with slanting support beams that look like sheets of rain. Take that, Sandals! [Stage: Concept]

Who needs Disneyworld when you’ve got Dubailand? Announced in 2003, this super-sized mega theme park (the builders prefer to think of it as a true city) will consist of six poorly named “worlds”: Attractions & Experience World, Retail and Entertainment World, Themed Leisure and Vacation World, Eco-Tourism World, Sports and Outdoor World, and Downtown, each containing a total of 26 “sub-worlds.” Downtown will feature the world’s largest shopping mall, called Mall of Dubai. Coffee lovers unite: the Mall of Dubai will eventually feature the world’s largest Starbucks. [Stage: Under Construction]

Bigger is better, and Dubai has its sites set on the sky with the Burj Dubai. When construction finishes in 2009, the Burj Dubai will most likely be the tallest “land-based structure” (which includes buildings and towers) in the world. Why most likely? “The projected final height of the Burj Dubai is officially being kept a secret due to competition,” according to its Wikipedia entry. Makes sense — why announce an official height when you can just continue building if someone else announces a larger project? Clever. [Status: Under Construction]

Italian-Israeli architect, David Fisher, unveiled in April a 68-story “spinning tower” he hopes to see join the the Dubai skyline in the future. Unlike existing structures that have a single revolving floor (San Antonio’s Tower of the Americas comes to mind, among many others), “[e]ach floor would rotate independently, creating a constantly changing architectural form,” says the Wall Street Journal. This is by far the coolest concept building I’ve found, Dubai or not. It reminds me a bit of Jenga, only…you know…much cooler. [Status: Concept]