Putting the Cloud to Work: Overview of Options
The cloud is one of the more mysterious technological developments in recent history. Many people find themselves wondering: What is it, where is it and what can it do for me?
In the most basic sense, the cloud is just part of the internet. It’s a private section of someone else’s website that you are borrowing or renting. Anything that is “in the cloud” is technically stored on remote servers accessed from the Internet – which could be anywhere in the world – and is accessible through whatever website or app you used to put it there.
While the idea of the cloud has been around for a while, we are just beginning to see some of the many ways it can be used in our everyday lives. Here are some of the most popular tools that you can use to put the cloud to work for you.
File Storage and Backup
The most common use for the cloud is file storage. It can replace things like flash drives, CDs and memory cards to move smaller files between devices, as well as external hard drives and servers you would use to back up, store and transfer larger files and collections of files.
Some of these services are built into our devices and operating systems, like Microsoft OneDrive (free to use with a Microsoft account) and iCloud. These create handy, automated backups for files on your computer.
Other types of services will sometimes include cloud storage and backup as part of a package, like US Cellular’s Device Protection+. DP+ offers data protection and storage along with covering accidental damage, hardware problems, loss and theft. Any content that is stored can be easily restored if it has been removed from your device.
Many email users and services have a cap on what size of file attachments they can send or receive. This includes web-based email like Gmail and Hotmail, as well as hosted email programs that many people use for work and business.
When you want to send a large file, or many files at once, cloud services can help. Services like WeTransfer and Dropsend allow you to send files of nearly any size to any person over email because they are hosted in the cloud rather than being attached to your email.
Some allow you to edit and share documents from the cloud. For example, Google Drive has its built-in Google Docs system, which allows you and others to access and edit text documents, spreadsheets and more from the cloud without downloading the file..
With a slightly different approach, Dropbox allows you to automatically sync a folder on your computer with your Dropbox file storage, so that when you or someone connected to the folder makes any changes, they are automatically synced between your computer and the cloud, making those same changes everywhere those files are stored.