As someone who works in technology, I often get questions about the mysterious “cloud” and how it can be used. The cloud is usually tied to internet-based services that enable you to work from any computer connected to the web. So in reality, a lot of people are already using cloud based services for their e-mail (services such as Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook.com), banking, and other things. The data is stored on web-connected computers, as opposed to your local machine, giving you the ability to access it from anywhere. But one area I find being underutilized is cloud-based storage services.
Cloud storage takes many forms, and there are many different services, but one of the easiest to use is the cloud drive. Cloud drive services such as Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive (formerly Sky Drive), and Drop Box all give you the ability to store your files to file servers on the Internet and then access them from any computer, tablet, or smartphone. Not only is this great for accessing documents and pictures from different locations, it also serves as a backup. If your computer crashes, no worries! Your files stored on the cloud are protected.
The cloud drive is very easy to use as well. Just install on your personal computer and save items to the appropriate folder – the rest is done for you. These services also have apps available for your smartphones and tablets that are just as easy to install, then you can easily move pictures or videos from your smartphone onto your computer. What’s more, these services all offer a generous amount of storage free of charge (more space is available for an additional cost, of course).
As if that wasn’t enough, you can share certain folders on your drive with other users for them to view or modify (you set the security). With my fiancé living two hours away from me, I cannot begin to tell you how useful this has been when it comes to planning a wedding.
One of the limitations of cloud drives is editing. Most people still use Microsoft Office for Word, Excel, and Power Point, but who has those programs on their smartphone? Microsoft does offer a new product, Office 365, which is their first attempt at moving Office to the cloud. Office 365 is available with a monthly or yearly subscription and allows you to install Office on up to five computers and five smartphones. If you want Office on your tablet, make sure it’s a Windows tablet because Microsoft does not offer Office for the iPad or Android tablets. In addition, an online version of Office will allow limited functionality within your web browser for documents stored in One Drive. I’ve found the experience to be very fluid and easy to use.
If you’re not looking to add another monthly bill, Google Documents offers a free and similar solution. With Google Docs, you work within your web browser to create documents, spreadsheets or presentations. With Google Docs, everything is stored on Google Drive, but you can always download a copy to your local PC, and Google Docs will even put it in Microsoft Office format for you.
When it comes to storing information on a cloud drive, it is important to keep security in mind as well. While most sites will tell you that your information is secure and encrypted, data breaches do happen, and a cloud service provider will be a larger target than your personal computer. Be careful about storing any sensitive information here. Security is also important to keep in mind when choosing your cloud service provider – not all security is created equally!
There are just some of the benefits to using cloud storage. Do you use the cloud? Share some of your favorites and help others take advantage of cloud storage!