Cloud computing resources
What are your favorite cloud computing resources for newsroom applications?
(inspired by a question that got lots of great responses on NICAR-L)
I have nothing but positives for Rackspace Cloud. Soon you'll be able to shutdown server images and just pay as if the images are files. Spin and kill at will without even having to keep some base server running at all times. That should be amazing for experimenting.
Our newsroom pretty much runs on Google Docs and GChat (which isn't a cloud app, but is necessary).
My general policy, both personally and professionally, is that local hard drives are basically staging. Anything important belongs in the cloud.
We use Amazon for absolutely everything, though I'll admit to having peeked at Rackspace Cloud, which offers some nice bonuses (local storage, which increases I/O, and way better cost/CPU ratio).
Another alternative for those in or considering Rails is a sweet little service call Heroku. It's a super simple way of getting a Rails app onto the web without worrying about any part of the infrastructure. It's all handled for you. No fuss, no muss.
You can start with a free site, but to serve any scale at all you'll need to pay. Have to say, I initially thought this was a flash-in-the pan, but it's come a long, long way in a very short time, and provides perhaps the world's simplest deploy, period.
They offer some nice add-ons, too, including Amazon RDS support. It's well worth looking at.
For a freelancer, Dropbox (dropbox.com) is pretty awesome. I use it as a 'my documents' folder, and it syncs to the cloud to back up all my essential stuff. Drafts, photos, invoices, the works...
It's also great if I need to send large attachments to people. Sharing a link to a 130 MB file is far easier than sending a 130 MB attachment. And if you can push dropbox on people you frequently work with, shared folders work well too.
Google Docs is way cool as well, and I have most of my stuff on there too. It's only going to get better now that they've worked in some Wave-ish functions.
If your needs don't include complicated relations or long-running processes, Google App Engine can be an effective and [nominally] free alternative to EC2 for hosting Django applications. If anyone decides to go that route, be sure to check out the work being done on djangoappengine--no reason to use Google's stripped down Django when you can have the whole framework!
App Engine is also a low-friction way to learn about building web apps (since Google makes hosting and deployment largely transparent), however, keep in mind that some of what you learn about working with Google's database won't translate to the traditional world of SQL.
That's brilliant. I'd love to see how that data is visualized. Especially in the context of some more traditional journalism like an article or video. Can it go in lieu of that? Obviously it's something that is (hopefully) updated often and its design would need to reflect that.
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