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Cloud computing is a big help to tourists and expats

by Garland M Baker on April 12, 2010

There is great news for expats and tourists in the cloud. Speaking of cloud computing, that is. Most expats — people of other nationalities who have made Costa Rica their home — do not have a clue what the term cloud computing means even though the concept could greatly change their lives, especially those who would like to make Costa Rica their home or at least visit the country more often.

Cloud computing is nothing more than working on the Internet using software and services that are provided on the Internet. Google is one of the foremost pioneers of these new services. Gmail, Google’s e-mail service, was just the beginning of its huge other offerings in software.

Two examples in Google’s menu are its calendar and document applications. However, the company offers other applications as well. Many are free and some others have charges associated with their use.

Why is this important to expats and tourists?
The answer is simple. It means one does not need to work from the confines of an office any longer or even in any physical location. The Internet, cloud computing and Software as a Service — commonly referred to as SaaS — truly sets people free.

Over the last two years there has been an explosion of services available to professionals on the Internet which allow them to work from anywhere. These new services increase as well the usefulness of smart cellular telephones, iPhones and Windows Mobile enabled phones, to enhance working from the cloud.

Many expats and tourists who live in or visit Costa Rica are some kind of professional. At least they have retired or are vacationing from some kind of work that can still use their expertise. This knowledge is marketable, and it can be sold and invoiced using the cloud. Many of these services are geared toward those who sell time rather than things, but what a great thing to sell: One’s knowledge in the form of time.

Here is how to turn time into money, using the Internet and cloud computing while surfing the afternoon at Playa Guiones or watching the sun set on one of the other beautiful beaches of Costa Rica.

The major player in the cloud computing world is Google. However, new companies are emerging daily to fill in the gaps where Google is weak. This is especially true in the area of invoicing and collecting for one’s billable time.

The leader of the pack in using the Internet to bill for almost anything including one’s time is FreshBooks. This company was started by people billing for Internet design work, but the company has exploded into one that is changing the way people think about the way they live and earn a living.

Here is an example of this concept and the use of FreshBooks:

Joe Tourist came to Costa Rica for the weekend from his office in New York to surf the afternoon at Playa Guiones, a famous surfing spot at Nosara. After long, hard surfing, he gets a call from a client from the United States and spends more than an hour on his cellular telephone in a deep consultation. As soon as the call is finished, Joe hits sends invoice from his smartphone, a mobile phone offering advanced capabilities, using MiniBooks, a component of the FreshBooks system, and the client is sent an invoice immediately via e-mail for the consultation.

Depending on what one sells, there are many other options available to bill for services and things using the cloud. The major players in billing professional time are Clio, Rocket Matter, and Bill4Time. FreshBooks and Harvest are the leaders in billing for other types of time-related matters and for items. All the companies are growing very fast, and their offerings are increasing exponentially this year.

Now here is an interesting quandary: Is it legal to come to Costa Rica and bill for your time using the Internet or smartphones? Tourists are not suppose to work here. Many legal residents are also restricted and cannot work legally. Is the Costa Rican government entitled to collect income taxes on revenue produced in this country by foreigners using the cloud? Interesting questions for sure. Undoubtedly, these queries will have the Costa Rican government as well as the country’s tax authorities in a huge dilemma for years.

Here is a prediction. Cloud computing will be great for Costa Rican real estate values. Again, the rational is simple. People will not be tied to living in any particular place.

Costa Rica’s 3G Internet system is off the ground, and it is getting better. In the next three to five years it should be great. The system works almost anywhere in the country today.

All this may sound a bit techie for some, but really it is not. It is all pretty simple stuff, and it is getting easier to use by the day. Cloud computing is here, and it is just going to get better and easier to use. This translates into more mobility for those who want to come to Costa Rica and live or have a second home here. This also translates into a bright future for the country and higher real estate value in the years to come.

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