I’m just guessing here, but I bet a fair number of you got new electronic computing devices for Christmas. With that in mind I thought I would make today’s post about something I’ve heard a lot of people talking about lately, but not really understanding how it works……”The Cloud.” I considered making the title of this post “The Cloud for Dummies,” but none of you are dummies, and I wanted to talk less about what the cloud IS, and more about how you can USE it to make your life better!
But first, a little about what it is. “The Cloud” isn’t an actual physical thing. “The Cloud” is a network of servers or “data centers.” These servers are way more powerful than your computer and can store an incredible amount of information. Some servers provide an online service, like Adobe Creative Cloud, and others allow you to store and access data, like Instagram or Dropbox. Cloud servers not only save your computer from filling up, but they can also be accessed anywhere.
With more and more people owning multiple devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones, the idea of your data being locked away in a desktop PC is pretty ridiculous. Cloud storage ensures that the files we need are available where and when we want them. Sharing files is easier too. Just send a link to files stored within a cloud service and friends or colleagues have access immediately.
You may already be using cloud computing without realizing it. If you’ve ever uploaded a photo to Facebook or Flickr, posted a video on YouTube, or archived an email in Google, you’ve used the cloud.
The Cloud offers a number of benefits for businesses (over 1/2 of U.S. businesses utilize it,) but it can also be used by the rest of us to improve and organize everyday life. Here are 11 creative Cloud storage ideas you might want to consider trying:
1. Keep Track of Passwords
The news reports about hackers stealing personal information have been everywhere lately! It’s so important to create strong passwords, but remembering them all and keeping them safe is overwhelming.
Thankfully, password management programs can generate strong passwords for you and store them in the Cloud. Memorize just one password and you’ll get access to all of your passwords whenever you need them. Bonus: most of them are free! I use LastPass and love it! It has saved me many times!
2. Organize To-do Lists
To-do lists keep us on task and increase productivity, but all too often they are misplaced or not where we need them. Use the Cloud to organize your various lists.
There are countless apps and websites for managing your to-do list…Ta-Da List, Toodledo, Wunderlist and Producteev are just a few. Most sync automatically so your lists are always current, no matter what device you use to access them.
3. Manage Inspirations & Ideas
Sticky notes are convenient, but they aren’t the best option for keeping your ideas organized and safe. From that brilliant idea for a novel to keeping a family journal, you can use the Cloud to securely store all kinds of personal reflections and insights.
You may have heard of something called Evernote (for Mac, PC, iPad and most smartphones.) Everyone I know seems to be RAVING about it! It is essentially a filing cabinet that lives in the “cloud” and lets you store almost any type of note, whether it’s a text, sound file, or an image, plus you can clip web articles, and capture handwritten notes.
4. Synchronize Your Life
The REAL beauty of Evernote, however, is that is automatically syncs to all of your devices. Throw text files, web pages, audio and photos into it, and they’re all instantly available, on all your devices, everywhere. Take a photo with your phone of a business card or a magazine article, and it’ll be there on your laptop when you need it. Evernote is just one example of apps that take advantage of the Cloud to sync up your life!
5. Save And Transfer Games
Increase the entertainment value of your games by saving them to the Cloud. When your game is stored in the Cloud you can start playing on one console or computer and finish playing on another, picking up your game right where you left off. Some game systems will save your game to the Cloud automatically, or you can do so manually. GameSave Manager allows you to backup, restore and transfer your gamesaves.
6. Organize Household Manuals
Nearly every home appliance is accompanied by a manual. Unfortunately, they often get tossed in a drawer, never to be seen again. The Cloud allows you to keep manuals on hand but out of the way. Use a Cloud service and create a folder named “manuals,” then drop PDF versions of the manuals in the folder and you’ll always have important information at your fingertips.
7. Never Lose A Precious Photo
Smartphones today can take high-quality photos without the hassle of hauling around a professional camera. Added bonus…many cloud storage services have apps that upload each shot you take on your phone to the cloud for instant backup and access…anywhere. If you’re shooting with a traditional digital camera, just connect it to your computer. Then you can choose a cloud storage service to automatically upload your photos to the cloud or your favorite social networking site.
8. Music On Demand
My daughter Britta is always making music playlists for events that we have. She mixes them on her laptop at home, but then saves it to the Cloud so she can access it from her phone or iPad at the event. Also, I have a fairly sizable music library, and the Cloud is perfect for being able to access my music on demand but not having it take up valuable storage on my devices.
9. Have Cloud – Will Travel
I travel a lot for work, and don’t always have my laptop with me when I need a particular file. If I have backed up my files to the Cloud I can access them from my phone or iPad anywhere I roam. As long as there’s Internet access, I’ve got the files I need, when I need them.
10. Share Your Life
Share you vacation photos with friends and family quickly and easily by uploading to the cloud. Many cloud services allow you to create photo galleries that you can view directly from the cloud, or, since the photos will also be available on your laptop, make a slideshow and share that! No more cables or emailing files to yourself.
11. Back Up Your Life
I still have boxes full of photos and files, but more and more I store these things on my devices. However, boxes can be swept away in a disaster, and devices can be lost or stolen. When you back up your files to the cloud, you won’t lose the things that were important enough to you to save in the first place. It’s not 100% foolproof, but it’s a whole lot safer than my other options.
There are a number of Cloud services on the market and nearly every one offers some amount of free storage.
Here are a few of the most popular ones to get you started:
Dropbox: Dropbox made file-syncing a household term. It’s ideal for accessing and sharing data from nearly anywhere. You only get 2GB free to start, but you can earn more space through referrals and other tasks.
Google Drive: Google Drive’s real strength lies in real-time online file collaboration through Web apps. Files you create in Google Drive, as opposed to those you upload, don’t count toward your free 15GB storage allotment. For collaborative projects, it’s a sweet deal.
Microsoft OneDrive: You get 7GB just for signing up, plus the ability to earn more free space through actions and referrals. OneDrive is a cornerstone of Windows 8, so users of that platform may find it one of the more convenient options.
Box: One of the first names in cloud storage and file-syncing, Box will make your files available to you across multiple computers and mobile devices and provide 5GB of free space.
Apple iCloud: Most Apple users have iCloud, whether they realize all its capabilities or not. The cloud storage system dutifully backs up your Mac and iOS devices, and can synchronize a lot of data between them, up to 5GB for free.
Amazon Cloud Drive: Online storage pure and simple. It’s one of the services you’ll want to use if you have a Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD or other Amazon ereader. It includes 5GB of space for free.
I’m making a New Year’s resolution to start using The Cloud to get organized, free up space on my devices, and save time, so that I can keep my other resolution to “work less, and play more!” :-) Won’t you join me!?
What online cloud service do you use? What is your favorite way to use it?