You've probably heard a lot about 'the cloud' lately. Windows 7 commercials have PC users stating "To the cloud!," and then magically solve the issue at hand. But what exactly is it? And does it really fix everything?
The cloud is basically online storage. When you save documents, mp3s, or any kind of file on your PC or laptop, it's stored on your hard drive, taking up space. The cloud allows you to save that same file, but instead of on your PC, it saves on the internet...in the air...or cloud...sort of magically. Why is this helpful?
For starters, it's less space taken up on your physical hard drive. Having important data saved and backed up is always good practice, but for files you want to make easily available to share, the cloud is a good alternative. If you save your data to both your machine, and the cloud, most likely it's safe. Your computer may break or become lost, but the internet will always be there.
If you take your work home with you, or vice versa, the cloud is a great option for transferring files. Rather than constantly use thumb drives or emails, upload your work to the cloud, and when you get home, pick up where you left off. It's accessible on any machine, both PC and Mac. Anywhere you can get on the internet, you can access your files.
If you share photos with family members online, you can save new albums onto the cloud. Then you share the link to your said storage, and whomever you invite can see your pictures. Most sites require registration and login, and online folders can be password protected as well, so no worries about strangers seeing your data.
There isn’t just one magical cloud. All of the internet is considered a cloud, more or less. Below are some features of a few of the more popular providers.
- Dropbox - Offers 2GB of free storage, with up to 100GB on a subscription plan. Can easily be shared with others, sets up password protected folders if wanted, compatible with Linux, Mac, PC, iOS, Android, and BlackBerry.
- MobileMe - Apple’s subscription based cloud services. For $99/year it provides 10GB online storage, email, calendar, online photo album, and syncs wirelessly and automatically with iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch.)
- GoogleDocs - An entire office suite based online. Edit documents, spreadsheets and more. You can even collaborate with other users in real time.
That should get you started. Now go to the cloud. Use the cloud. Love the cloud.