I’m starting a new category, called “cloudware” which is how i intend to refer to software that runs in the cloud. This will be my way of documenting what cloudware I actually use and fine useful.
Fitting then that the first entry here is for Foldershare, a beta service from Microsoft that is stunningly simple in its execution. It’s basically a P2P client that runs on your own machines and synchronizes files across them in any folder(s) you specify. It does require a small client download on each PC to work, but the footprint is quite small (On my Asus EEE, its taking up about 10 MB of RAM). However, once the client is installed on each PC you want to sync, all config is done via the Foldershare website. You can also sync files between yourself and other people, permitting collaborative work.
I think the idea is effective because it treats the PC as part of the cloud rather than just a thin client. P2P implicitly assumes that the important content is at those end-nodes, ie the users’ PCs, and not intrinsic to the cloud. Using P2P in this very specific, very focused way is simply brilliant.
It should be noted that they’ve had some hiccups, but hopefully that’s behind them 🙂 I am using it right now for a folder containing a manuscript in draft and it’s incredibly empowering for me to be able to sit at either computer and just start working. The files are even available online if you’re away from your client PCs.
In one sense a purely cloud-based application like Google Docs obviates the need to keep files in sync. However, cloud-based productivity apps are still orders of magnitude behind the desktop equivalents. Even Open Office still doesn’t suffice for my needs compared to Microsoft Word. There’s simply no way to (yet) replicate the productivity of working on your home PC by working exclusively in the cloud. This is why Foldershare is so interesting – it lets you work as you normally would, but augments that by letting you tap into the distributed nature of the cloud. It’s the best of both worlds and until pure cloudware catches up to regular software in terms of functionality, it’s going to be a better solution than working exclusively online.