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Cloud storage: what it is and how can it help you?

Have you considered simplifying your everyday life using the contemporary storage alternatives to traditional photo albums and filing cabinets? Perhaps it’s time to get your head in the “Cloud”!

Cloud storage is much more than an IT buzzword. It’s a highly practical innovation that lets you save, access and share all types of digital files – for example, family photos, holiday videos, important work and personal admin documents – using your internet-connected devices, without needing to keep or find the original versions.

WHAT IS THE CLOUD?

Definitions of the Cloud can sound complicated, but the reality for you as a user is far less confusing. Whether you realise it or not, chances are you already know a little bit about the Cloud and how it works. If you’ve ever used a personal device like a laptop, tablet or smartphone, you’ve almost certainly taken advantage of this modern computing platform one way or another.

But what exactly is the Cloud? To answer this question, let’s first confirm what it is not in this context: a cause of overcast conditions and a sign of possible rainfall, nor a state of gloom or worry. In fact, it’s something rather more positive.

In simple terms, the Cloud exists across multiple networked data centres all working together around the world, as opposed to any one specific location. You can’t physically touch the Cloud, but as long as you’re connected to the internet you can manage it remotely.  

Cloud computing therefore refers to storing and accessing software programs, files and other data via the internet rather than through your computer’s own hard drive. So Cloud access essentially means the availability of countless digital resources on demand from any device, anywhere, at any time.

Some popular Cloud storage and file-sharing providers/services include:

  • Google Drive
  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • Dropbox
  • Apple iCloud
  • Social media platforms e.g. Facebook, Instagram
  • And various web-based applications.

WHAT DOES IT DO?

Cloud storage is widely used, but what precisely can it do to make your life easier? Typically you might use Cloud storage for things like: organising and transferring high-priority files; creating digital photo albums; archiving research or reading materials; recording finances, budgets and similar information; making travel plans and itineraries; viewing tailored calendars; looking up contacts; accessing account logins and passwords; and plenty more.

For example, images saved via Cloud storage platforms like Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, or on social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram, are then permanently “stored” (unless you choose to delete them) on the Cloud – even though you actually view the pictures on your personal device.

The Cloud can be used to store and access the following: 

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Word documents
  • PDFs
  • Spreadsheets
  • Any other digital assets.

PROS AND CONS

If you’re fed up with having to delete things from your computer to make space for new additions, or with trying to locate older files using a different device away from your home computer, Cloud storage could certainly help. Think of it as a way to proactively outsource those tricky, time-consuming or seemingly impossible tasks – like quickly digging up an old tax invoice or finding a document to send to a friend – using the power of the internet.

And the pros don’t end there. Cloud storage provides numerous benefits worth keeping in mind, such as:

  • Lower costs – coud storage providers, many of whom offer free services, can save you money compared to the purchase of expensive storage hardware like an external drive 
  • Broad accessibility – using the Cloud for storage means you can (almost) always access your files regardless of where you are
  • Data recovery – malfunctioning hardware including computer hard drive failure can be frustrating at best or devastating at worst, but the Cloud is a perfect backup solution to protect all your files
  • Syncing and updating – working with Cloud storage guarantees that any changes you make to files will sync and update in ‘real time’ across every linked device
  • Enhanced security – extra layers of built-in security generally make Cloud storage services safer from hackers than unprotected files sitting idly on your computer. 

We should also mention the potential disadvantages of Cloud storage – most notably its reliance on a stable internet connection to view and edit files, a general lack of quality technical support especially from free service providers, and privacy and responsibility issues relating to the fact your data may no longer exist outside of the Cloud. There is also a responsibility on users to create secure passwords to avoid unauthorised use.

That said, none of these concerns should necessarily stop you from taking advantage of Cloud storage. Pick a service with a good reputation, and always read the terms and conditions of your chosen cloud storage service; use a rock-solid password; and to be completely safe, don't upload anything to the cloud that you wouldn't be comfortable having accessed by someone else, such as financial information, medical records or private pictures.

Following these simple steps will help to minimise your concerns and ensure you have a great experience in the Cloud.