Using the "Cloud" Makes It Easy to Get Your Files Anywhere, at Any Time.
For some computer users, especially those over the age of 40, technology can seem a little scary...or at least "unsafe." Sometimes the new, fast and "digital" way of doing something doesn't seem as safe as the old way.
For instance, there a lot of people who will withdraw cash from an ATM, but they will not deposit a check into an ATM—they prefer the security of handing their check over to someone behind a counter.
And there are thousands of people who still do not have a Facebook page or other social media account. They value their privacy and are afraid of losing it. (There are millions of people who feel that way.)
Introducing the "Cloud."
The Cloud—that mysterious-sounding whatever-it-is that sprung up the past few years—is one of the innovations that have some people worried. However, using the Cloud to store and share computer information could make your life a lot simpler...just like using an ATM for banking convenience or social media to stay in touch with friends.
Using the cloud to store your personal or business documents, files and photos could save you time, trouble and a lot of headaches searching for specific files when you need them.
Think of the cloud as a securely guarded warehouse on the Internet where you can store and save any electronic file you want: letters, photos, spreadsheets, medical records...anything.
Saving anything to the cloud is as easy as saving it to your computer, once you set up an account with a cloud service. And retrieving (accessing and opening) any file stored in the cloud is just as simple a process. And here's why that could make life easier for you.
The convenience of the cloud.
Let's say you created a document on your computer, perhaps a resume or letter for someone else, and you saved it on your computer's hard drive. Then about a week later, when you're not at home, somebody you meet asks if you can send them that file as soon as possible. You'd likely tell them, "Yes. As soon as I get back home."
- What if they needed it right away?
- What if you were on vacation and couldn't get to your laptop for a while?
- What if you wouldn't have physical access to it for weeks?
More than that, let's say you were writing a short story or a long letter to a friend. The only time you could work on it or print it out would be when you were at home in front of your computer.
But if you saved it to the cloud, you, and only you, could open up that file from any computer with Internet access. It's like having a floating storage device that travels with you wherever you go...like a cloud.
There are a lot of companies that offer "cloud storage" services, as they are technically known. When you open an account with one of them, they are "leasing" you space on a computer server somewhere on the Internet. It may not be at one facility—it may be spread out on different servers—but the behind-the-scenes details will be invisible to you.
Most of the time, you can open an account and store files at no charge, up to a certain data-size amount. That arrangement works for the average computer user.
Some benefits of the cloud.
Whether you plan to use cloud storage for yourself or for a small company, there's a cloud storage system that should work for you. They all offer convenience and benefits that make their service worth considering:
- Scalability. You can go small or go big with cloud services. Your data is stored and "measured" in gigabytes, and services start off by giving you a set amount for free. That just might be all you need. But if you want to store data for your small business and don't want to buy more hardware, you can rent more data storage space pretty inexpensively.
- Reliability. Many people back up their hard drive in the cloud in case their hard drive crashes. The peace of mind that comes from knowing data will never just disappear one day could be well worth the nominal cost.
- Collaboration. If you work in an office or on creative projects as part of a team, you know the hassle of emailing files back and forth, waiting to get a file back, and keeping track of versions. The cloud system is the modern way to collaborate. Everyone on the team, wherever they are, can share the file by sending a link to it in the cloud. Team members can make changes and save the new version in the cloud so that everyone sees the updated file.
Here are a few of the better-known services:
- Apple iCloud. This service is available for any (Apple) Mac computer or any iOS device. (iOS is Apple's own operating system, which includes iPhones and iPads.) The iCloud application is built into all new Apple devices but it is not available to computers that use Windows. It starts you off with 5 GB of storage at no charge.
- Dropbox. This is a highly popular service that works from Macs and Windows PCs, as well as tablets and smartphones. You can use Dropbox for free with 2 GB of storage and can boost up to 100 GB of storage for around $10 per month.
- Google Drive. As you know, Google is at the forefront of technology and customer services, so it's no surprise that they are a leader in cloud services. Google Drive gives you 5 GB of free storage when you open a Google account, which is also free. For a small monthly charge, you can upgrade to 25 GB of storage. Google Drive loves both Mac and PC users equally!
Give it a try.
Just having access to your files from anywhere from any computer or device (remote access) is the major benefit of cloud storage. It can be a lifesaver for anyone who does a lot of work on the road. But the other benefits mentioned earlier are just as valuable.
It may be worth it for you to set up one or more cloud service accounts and explore their value to you.