How cloud computing will lead us to a document-free society

This week, at the Adobe MAX Creativity Conference, Adobe announced its newest version of its popular Photoshop photo-editing software line: Photoshop CC.

What astonished many Photoshop fans is the fact that Photoshop CC is completely cloud-based. Part of Adobe’s new Creative Cloud suite of applications, the Photoshop CC software, tools, fonts, and user documents are completely online, meaning all files are located on Adobe servers rather than your desktop or laptop computer. All work is performed online or “in The Cloud,” through an internet connection, but users can choose to download files in various file formats to their computers or mobile devices.

There are many cool advantages to cloud computing. Because applications and files are on a remote server and accessible through a browser, users can retrieve and make changes to their documents from anywhere they have an Internet connection. Through compatible Adobe mobile applications, this includes being able to retrieve and modify files through mobile devices such as an smartphone or tablet.

The wave of the future is “The Cloud” and truly portable, remotely-accessible computing. Intuit was an early contender in cloud-based applications by releasing its popular set of financial software applications Turbo Tax and Quickbooks in an all-online form. I foresee more software companies following suit, eventually becoming the standard. Equally, like Google’s Chromebook, which predominantly runs and stores files in the Google set of cloud applications (and is a top selling platform at $199), cloud storage systems will become the norm, as local hard-drives shrink instead of continuing to grow larger to compensate for the greater amounts of data we now store electronically.

As accessing and sharing electronic documents becomes easier in The Cloud, paper documents will decrease (“Yay,” say the trees!). Users will be able to select a document and email or share it with individuals or groups. When electronic signatures become part of this process, paper mail (perhaps, save those loads of ads and coupons) will trickle down to a minimum. The USPS will have to create a certified electronic mailing system if it wants to keep up.

What are the downsides? For every positive, there is often at least one negative, and cloud computing doesn’t come without any concerns. The foremost is security. While it may be more convenient to have all of one’s files stored remotely, protecting all this sensitive information becomes an issue. If hackers can break through virtual walls to access confidential government and financial data, they might certainly be able to access the entire collection of private files of any individual. Related, verifying the signature of shared or cloud-sent files will be important. As cloud-based computing grows, so does the need for more secure IT practices.