The cloud is an often used, but nebulous (excuse the pun) term nowadays. Not sure what it means? If you do, you’re not alone!
The cloud can refer to any network, and is even used to refer to the public internet. So what is it really? According to Mashable.com, “the cloud is a network of servers, and each server has a different function. Some servers use computing power to run applications or deliver a service.” Storing your important data in the cloud has several advantages. It can be retrieved from anywhere on any device that can access the Internet. It adds infinite capacity to your desktop computer, laptop, tablet or phone. It’s always there, even when you’ve forgotten your thumb drive. And you can even update or synchronize your files automatically.
The first step is to download the cloud provider’s application that connects your computer’s filing system with the cloud service. For example, a PC user can download the Dropbox app and a folder will automatically appear in the File Manager on that computer. Then it’s easy to drag and drop files into it, or just use save-as from your applications and save files directly into the Dropbox folder. Your files now “in the cloud” and you can see them from your other devices. The Dropbox desktop app will also constantly check your files for changes and synchronize them automatically.
Tip: For added safety and peace of mind, it is advisable to save your files to another source as well. This could be a USB stick, memory card, etc. Redundancy is the best way to protect yourself from the inevitable crashes, glitches, hacks, and other mishaps that are going to occur.
Synchronizing is another term you should know. It simply means when you save a file to your cloud account – Dropbox, Apple iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive – you can access it from other devices. Simply browse the folder from inside the application. BEWARE: the same file stored on your flash drive or the hard drive of your computer does not get updated. So you do have to be alert or you’ll end up with multiple versions of the same files in differing stages of completeness. But it does mean that you can finish a document you started at work in MS Word, by opening Word on your home computer and opening it from the folder it was stored in on the cloud. Voila! There’s the document you started at the office earlier, just the way you left it, now in front of you at home.
Many services offer free storage. For example, Google Drive and OneDrive both offer 15GB at no charge. iCloud is not so generous at 5GB and Dropbox basic users get 2GB free. Of course, more space is available for a fee. Currently, all Office 365 subscribers get 1TB of OneDrive storage at no extra cost, or new subscribers can get Office 365 and 1 TB of cloud storage for $6.99. At Dropbox, Google Drive and iCloud you can get a terabyte of storage for $9.99/month.
If you currently use more than one service, consider the Otixo app. Its file manager lets you search for files in all you cloud folders and copy or move them between folders without first downloading them to your computer or device. This can be helpful if you encounter slow download times or face data usage charges from a mobile provider.
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