I am starting to see more about cloud desktops: virtual operating systems that you access through your browser that look like your normal desktop computer. ZeroPC caught my eye because it offers some of the information management tools that I think are important for lawyers managing information with cloud-based services. It has the added benefit of additional tools although it is not rich enough a desktop OS for a lawyer to rely on.
ZeroPC does an excellent job of relying on your pre-existing accounts and passwords. When I signed up to ZeroPC, it used my Google account – which has a very strong password – rather than creating a separate username and password. I prefer cloud services that employ this method because I trust mature cloud providers over more recent ones.
The service uses your Web browser and I was able to use it with Chrome on both my desktop and tablet. You are presented with a Windows-like desktop when you access your account. Unlike remote connection resources like GotoMyPC, where you are accessing your own computer, this is a virtual desktop running on a cloud server. There is a button where the Windows Start button would be and icons on the desktop. This is a cloud service, though and it enables you to manage your information across multiple services.
One feature that I like is the storage management. You can connect your ZeroPC account to cloud file synchronization services like Dropbox, Box, Sugarsync, and Google Drive. Once connected, you can move files from one account to another from within the ZeroPC interface. I recently looked at another site that does the same thing.
ZeroPC does a good job treating multiple resources as one. You can attach multiple e-mail accounts in the same way., creating a unified inbox. It will auto-configure Google and Yahoo! mail accounts but you can add other IMAP mail servers as well.
It also provides another feature that I think can be powerful: cloud search. There is a search box at the bottom of the screen, on your virtual task bar. When you search for files with the box, it searches across all of your connected cloud services for results. This is not new – I’ve discussed both Cue Up and CloudMagic before – but ZeroPC has done a good job of providing it as part of a much more functional environment.
This approach to a cloud desktop would seem to be useful for someone who had a variety of cloud-based resources that could be connected using ZeroPC. It is distinctive because they not only provide the connections but a familiar interface in which to use them. It appears to be based on a Linux operating system, and comes with a simple text editor, image tools, and other applications, like the tablet-familiar ThinkOffice productivity suite. If you want to view a document, you can open it using the Google Docs viewer, for example. There is even a Web browser on the desktop so that you do not need to open a second window or tab.
There is a free version so you would have to watch how much information you were transferring or storing in the extra space ZeroPC offers. Paid versions offer additional benefits and features, mostly in the areas of bandwidth and storage space.