When you need your stuff, wherever you are

Have you ever been in a meeting, or chatting with a friend and realized you needed an important file or photo?  What do you do?  Have someone email it to you?  What if it’s stored on your home computer?  All these questions and none with a good answer.  The cloud can help.  What is the cloud you ask.  Easy.  It’s an all in one place to store your electronic data, so you can access it from anywhere you can access the internet.  Let’s face it, if you live in the Western World, that is pretty much anywhere you could be.

Google Data CenterWhat is the Cloud?

The “cloud” is basically a server, or remote computer, that you can store your files on.  Usually these computers are owned by a cloud services company.  These are not normal computers at all, but giant servers that live in huge data centers around the country and around the world.  These computers(servers) do one thing, give you access to your stuff that you store there.  The primary advantage in using a cloud service is that your data is backed up somewhere other than your own computer.  So if something happens to your computer, your files are not lost.  These data centers also have backups, so if one of them was damaged, the others would still be able to supply your needs.  It might just be a little slower.  The data centers are located throughout the world so you can access your files from the nearest one.

Chances are, you use the Cloud already

If you have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, or Tumblr account, you already store some stuff in the cloud.  No doubt you use one of these services to at least keep some of your photos in.  These social media sites are not all in one cloud style accounts, but work for most people.  What if you want to do more.  Since there is really nothing worse than sitting down at the computer to get some work done.  Only to realize the file you need is on another computer.

Google Data Center

Google Data Center

Cloud Storage

There are several Cloud storage solutions already out there, and they are getting easier and more transparent to use.  The major ones are DropBox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Amazon Cloud.  These sites all offer free plans and allow you to pay for more storage should you want/need it.  Google Drive will give you unlimited storage of photos from your Android device and Amazon gives you free storage of photos, no matter where they come from.



Cloud Name Available Storage Price per Month
Dropbox 1TB $8.25
OneDrive 5GB Free
OneDrive 50GB $1.99
Google Drive 15GB Free
Google Drive 100GB $1.99
Google Drive 1TB $9.99
Amazon Unlimited Pay for what you use
Apple iCloud 5GB Free
Apple iCloud 50GB $0.99
Apple iCloud 200GB $3.99
Apple iCloud 1TB $9.99

So what’s the benefit?

The benefit of cloud storage is flexibility.  Today’s smartphones are data centric devices.  The downside of a great camera?  Storage.  Great pictures take up a lot of space, which if you don’t have the option of expandable storage, you are stuck.  How many times have you tried to take one more picture, or download a new app, only to be told you don’t have enough room on your device?  The cloud can solve this.  If you connect your device to the cloud and backup your pictures and other files there, you basically move the storage off your phone.  All the major cloud providers have apps that allow you to view your content seamlessly on your device as if it was locally stored.  This allows you to remove the content from your device and free up that space.

What are the risks?

There is some risk and several websites out there will tell you the cloud is a bad idea.  Some of the arguments against the cloud are that you lose control of your data, you run the risk of the cloud service folding, or you won’t have access if you don’t have an internet connection.  Let’s break these down a little bit.

cloud-iconFirst: You lose control of your data.  This is a bit of a stretch.  Sure you are entrusting your pictures, files, and data to some big faceless company to store on servers they control.  Will they use your data for their own purposes?  No.  The major providers are built on the trust that your data is your data, and it will not be mined for advertising purposes.  Google and Microsoft are not going to be sifting through your pictures looking at what you have.  These companies are built on a mutual trust with the consumer.  Without it, they will fail, I don’t think they are willing to jeopardize that relationship.

Second: You run the risk of the cloud service folding.  Sure, Google or Microsoft or Amazon may go out of business and you will be left stranded.  I don’t think this is likely and these companies, if they should fold, would not happen overnight.  There would be plenty of chances to migrate your data to another site.

Third: You can’t access your data without an internet connection.  This is true, but how often are you without at least a simple connection to the internet.  Most of us carry a smartphone that is always connected, unless you are out in the middle of nowhere.  So this is a limit.  If you need access to mission critical files and info, I would recommend keeping a local copy and backing it up to the cloud.

Fourth: Hacking – As you know, bad people are out there trying to get a hold of your stuff.  This is just a fact of life in the connected age.  The chance that you specifically will be targeted is low.  The datacenter providers have a strong stake in making sure your data is completely secure.  It goes back to the mutual trust idea.

You almost have to think of the cloud as a bank.  You trust your local bank with your money, they have safeguards in place to make sure your money is safe and secure.  They also would fail if they lost that trust, for whatever reason.  So it is in their best interest to make sure they can do all that they can to maintain that trust.

Run your own cloud

cloud-securityThere are several devices out there that you can hook into your home internet connection.  They will work as your own personal cloud storage.  You can control who has access and who can download your files.  Own Cloud is one of the primary providers I have tried using in the past to host my own files.  It has it’s own app and everything to provide the front end.  I don’t have a done of experience with this option, so I am hesitant to recommend something.  Maybe if someone has some ideas, they can post it in the comments below.

Bottom Line

Cloud storage and computing is here to stay.  It does have some risks, but they are small in the grand scheme of things.  Again the chance to have an automatic backup of your all important pictures and files does help clear out space on your device and make sure you have the room you need to create the new images you want to keep.  You just need to keep in mind the couple of limitations that cloud storage creates.  The final piece is keeping in your mind where your stuff is stored.  Like I mentioned before, some of the newer apps make it seamless.  So you don’t want to accidently delete something from the cloud and from your device.

The cloud is here to stay and with a little time and practice you can fold it into your arsenal.

PC Mag article about Cloud Computing