Since I got my CR-48 notebook from Google about a month ago I've spent some time thinking about the future of computing and specifically how it will change my personal and business operations. I really believe that it will only be a couple of years before literally everything is “in the cloud” – from your personal music and video library to your business critical software and documents.

And I realized that I have already been moving my business and personal life in this direction for years. Even if I wasn't consciously moving “into the cloud” I was doing for the sake of simplicity and convenience.

Three years ago I abandoned installed stock charting software (eSignal and TradeStation) and replaced it with StockCharts.com so that I could access all my saved charts and charting preferences from any device rather than just the one computer it was installed on. 

Around the same time I gave up on Outlook and moved all my email addresses (I probably have a dozen) and contacts into Gmail so that I wouldn't have to worry about syncing them between multiple computers and devices. I began scheduling events in Google Calendar rather than Outlook for the very same reason. I started using Google Docs about a year ago as a replacement for Office and I've been editing critical spreadsheets from multiple computers and sharing them with multiple users ever since.

Each one of these steps has made my life exponentially more productive and efficient. Anyone who has spent hours upon hours dealing with BSODs and upgrading systems or hardware or recovering data lost from a crashed computer should instantly see the benefit of eliminating all of these headaches in one simple step: moving to the cloud.

So I've decided to embark on a “cloud computing” experiment: to take my personal and business computing needs entirely into the cloud. After my HP desktop blew up (literally, sparks and flames came out of the back of the machine) around Christmastime and I was forced to spend hours recovering data using SugarSync and a RocketFish hard drive enclosure I vowed to give up 20th century technology completely and embrace 21st century cloud computing. To make it plain, I'm giving up installed software cold turkey.

Here's a list of the software or utilities I have been using and what I have or intend to replace it with:
  • Quickbooks – Quickbooks online is a much simpler and elegant solution to the installed software and it never needs to be backed up.
  • Google Docs – It will take me some time to upload all of my critical docs but being able to say goodbye to Office will be worth it.
  • eSignal/Tradestation – As I mentioned, I've already made the change to StockCharts.com and would never consider going back. I look at charts on my phone too much.
  • Outlook – Gmail and Google Calendar are amazing upgrades to the processing hog that is Outlook. My wife and I (and a few of my employees) have been coordinating schedules with Google's help for years now. It would be asinine to give it up.
  • ValueLine – Valueline.com provides everything online in PDF form that they provide in print or via installed software.
  • Newspapers and installed RSS readers – I access Google Reader from at least 2 different computers and my smartphone every day. 
  • SchwabLink – SchwabInstitutional.com allows me to manage client accounts, trade and review statements without any installed software.
  • Voicemail and Fax – I forward my mobile and business calls to Google Voice to screen incoming calls and review messages from any device I choose. I'm looking into moving my business phone and fax lines to RingCentral so that I no longer need any hardware other than my smartphone and laptop.
  • Advent software – I have used it for client portfolio reporting for over ten years. They do offer an outsourced, cloud-based service but it's 3x the cost of my current software. So I either need to negotiate a better deal (preferred choice) or find a less costly alternative.
Now here's a list of the changes to my personal computing needs:
  • Music library (iTunes/Windows Media Player) – Personally I prefer listening to my highly refined Pandora channels but I'm also using Mspot to put my entire music library online. I can stream it to a variety of devices including my smarphone (no more syncing mp3 players).
  • Photo library – I've already uploaded the entire thing (10 years/thousands of photos) to Picasa, an exercise that was accompanied by a massive sigh of relief. My computer can crash or my house go up in flames and the invaluable memories wrapped up in that photo library will be safe and sound.
  • Photoshop – picnik photo editor is browser-based and free. Adobe offers Photoshop Express Editor as another browser-based alternative.
  • Games – OnLive and Steam Cloud offer gaming sans software. (Of course this is more for my 11-yo son than for me.)
Almost all of these changes are already complete. I still need to upload a few docs and songs and talk to Advent but aside from that I'm already functioning at least 90% in the cloud. The final 10% might be challenging but my experience so far has been that moving these things online has made my life infinitely more productive and much less stressful. Eliminating the last few computing headaches in my life can only be a good thing.

Over the next few months I'll blog my progress, share the challenges I face and gloat over how much easier my life is compared to those of you who are still married to dinosaur technologies. Feel free to ask any questions or share your ideas in the comments; I'm happy to discuss and I'm always looking for better solutions.

***Blog post composed and photos edited entirely on my CR-48 in Gmail and using Picnik***