Using the Cloud in Web Design
Cloud computing is revolutionizing the way web designers do their work, from designing to storing and sharing files. Instead of having to rely on one local computer or server to access software and projects, designers now have the ability to access these elements anywhere, and on any device. This technology has made collaboration easier than ever, with the ability to quickly share and discuss ideas, mockups and finalized designs quickly and easily with very little time spent arranging the logistics.
Below outlines more about the cloud and how it can benefit you as a designer.
How the Cloud Works
The internet is structured so that all the digital files that make up websites are stored in central, physical hard drives. Then when an internet user makes a search, these servers respond by displaying the correct website or search results on the user’s browser. The cloud – instead of putting all the weight of supporting files on one of these servers – uses the servers collectively, as a client-server mechanism. It utilizes certain resources from a combination of the hard drives to lower barriers and deliver information more quickly. If you’re looking for more information, this cloud computing guide by Xero provides a helpful foundational understanding and a pretty funny video of people trying to explain the cloud themselves.
More importantly for designers, the cloud’s reliance on the collective group of servers allows it to hold powerful tools, applications and software that can be accessed from anywhere.
To put the concept of cloud computing into context and to help you visualize it in action, think about the answers to these questions:
1) Do you have a Gmail or other email account?
2) Have you ever used Google Docs to share working documents with others?
3) Do you have pictures and videos on your Facebook or other social networking site?
If you answered yes, then you have used the cloud. The convenient ability to access your email from anywhere and on any device has been around for a while, but most people don’t realize that it is known as cloud computing. Google Docs is a newer application of the cloud, and makes sharing and editing documents as a team much easier in folders contained in the web. The same goes for keeping photos and posts on social networking sites.
You get the picture. The cloud greatly increases speed and convenience, and offers many more benefits.
Benefits of Using the Cloud for Design
While means of transferring files have improved over the years, evolving from floppy disks to flash drives to email, the cloud removes the need for physical drives to hold files. Ever been working on a design for a client and lose everything due to hardware failure or your operating system randomly freezing before you got the chance to save? Working directly from the cloud will almost always prevent the frustration associated with this, as many will save your files automatically in the cloud. It’s easy to revert back to the timestamp where you left off.
Another major benefit is the simplification of working remotely from your client. Rather than having to coordinate sending files back and forth via email and arranging meetings to discuss the work, you can simply save your work into a shared cloud storage folder and your client or boss can easily access the files at a time convenient to them.
Here are some cloud storage services already popular in the design community:
Many have discovered the reality of Dropbox’s slogan, “Simplify your life,” as it is probably the most popular cloud storage application. An incredibly user-friendly app, Dropbox is free to sign up and also offers professional and business plans. The free plan allots you 2GB of storage, which can be increased through a referral system. This is a great way to jump from computer to computer and access your documents whenever you need them, without having to worry about carrying a flash drive around.
Basecamp is the leading project management app. It’s great for designers, because it holds and organizes all the files of a project in one place: including discussion feeds, files and documents, which can be shared and worked on by team members from anywhere. You no longer have to worry about your computer or software crashing and losing your work or trying to email files to your team that are too large to attach. The security, organization and collaboration features of this app make it well worth its small fee.
Adobe Creative Cloud
This is perhaps the most exciting cloud app for designers. No more paying huge sums to install software on your computer and then having to pay more to upgrade a few months later. Membership to Creative Cloud enables you to use the latest Adobe products, like CS6, as well as design print, apps and video. You can sync your files from any device and share them with a team or work individually, as well as obtain exclusive features.
The only real drawback of the cloud is its reliance on internet connection. If you don’t have access to the internet, you don’t have access to the cloud. This can be especially problematic if you have internet connectivity issues or you’re dealing with bandwidth killers on your connection. It might be a good idea to continue to back up your files for such a situation, but if you take care of any internet problems and have a reliable source, the cloud is sure to make your design work much easier.
About the Author:
Rob Toledo loves CSS3, no longer supports IE7 or lower and still prefers Firefox over Chrome, despite pressures from his management to switch. He can be reached on Twitter @stentontoledo
Published February 5th, 2013 by Rob Toledo