26 June 2012

Cloud week - part 2: Cloud Storage

The concept of cloud storage just means that you can upload files (documents, photos, videos, music) from your computer to a location on the internet and then access them from any internet-connected computer, some tablets and smartphones. 

Cloud storage is perfect for anyone who needs access to their files when they’re away from their computer.  You upload your files to the cloud, and then all you need is a device with an internet connection, and you have access to all your files.  One of the main features of cloud storage is the ability to sync any changes you make while connected to the cloud with your files back on your own computer.  Great if you travel a lot – no laptop to carry, you can access your files on any tablet, phone or computer that’s connected to the internet.

There are quite a few Cloud Storage providers, these are some of the most popular:

Most cloud storage providers offer a certain amount of free storage and the ability to pay for more if you need it. 


  •  Free — 2GB.  You can earn 500MB of space if you refer friends and gain up to 18 GB worth of free space.
  • Premium plans start at $9.99/month for 20GB
  • Available for Windows PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android
Dropbox is one of the most popular, and easiest to use, cloud storage and file sharing services available. 

Dropbox integrates into Windows Explorer, creating a Dropbox folder that just looks like another folder on your computer.  It automatically syncs files in that folder with your cloud storage, so any file you copy to your PC’s Dropbox folder gets immediately uploaded to your online account. 

Google Drive

  • Free storage — 5 GB
  • Premium plans start at $2.49/month for 25 GB
  • Available for Windows PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android
Google is the newest cloud storage provider, and it’s not yet available to all Google accounts. 

Google has the advantage of being able to integrate Google Drive with many of its other services.  For example, Google+ users will be able to post photos directly from Drive, Google Play Music keeps track of what music you download to your Android phone and saves a copy of all the tracks and playlists in the cloud for you listen to from other devices.  Instant Upload for Android sends any photo or video taken with a smartphone to a private album in a Google+ account.  If you use Google calendar, any changes made on your desktop are instantly synced to your phone. You’ll also be able to collaborate with others in real time on any Google Docs documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. 

Microsoft SkyDrive

  • Free storage — 7GB (if you signed up to Windows Live before 22 April 2012 you can currently opt-in for 25GB work of free storage)
  • Premium — Additional 20 GB available starting at $10/year
  • Available for Windows Vista, Windows 7, Mac OS X, iPhone, iPad, Windows phone
Skydrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage service, part of its Windows Live range of online services. 

If you primarily use Microsoft Office software, SkyDrive is the Cloud Storage option for you.  As well as uploading your files from your computer for storing, you can also create and edit Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations and OneNote Notebooks within the SkyDrive site, which are then synchronised with the files on your computer when you save the document using Windows Live Mesh.   Files can be kept private or shared with friends or family.  SkyDrive will become even better with Windows 8, being released later this year.

Apple iCloud

  • Free storage - 5GB.  However, not all data counts towards this amount (eg. iTunes files that are downloaded from the iTunes store are not counted)
  • Additional storage available starting at $10/month for 10GB
  • Available for iOS 5, Mac OS X (Lion), Windows Vista (Service Pack 2) and Windows 7.  All new Apple devices are already synced for iCloud.  If you don’t have iOS 5, as long as your device is capable of running it, the update is free through iTunes.  When you download iOS 5 you’ll be asked to opt-in to iCloud. 

iCloud isn’t just for your Apple devices (iPhones, iPads and iPod touches), it’s also available for Windows, which means that if you have an assortment of Apple devices and a Windows computer they can now all talk to each other.

iCloud stores your e-mail, contacts, and calendars and gives you instant access to your latest music, movies, apps, photos and more. You never have to download or upload anything and iCloud handles all the behind-the-scenes file management.  

Instead of logging on to iTunes to sync your music on each device, it’s already done for you. The same with movies, TV shows, books from the iBookstore, apps and anything else you buy – or have previously bought – from iTunes.   How about taking a photo on your iPhone, then viewing it on your iPad or desktop computer just seconds later?  You can also sync documents using the iWork apps, including Pages, Keynote, and Numbers.  Any document you create or edit is automatically available on your Mac and/or iPad 2 as soon as you log on to iCloud.

Want to try it out?   If you’ve got a Google or Gmail account you can experience Google’s cloud-based storage right now. Simply log in to your Gmail or Google account, and click the ‘Documents’ tab at the top. You’ll be taken to Google Docs, which is an online suite that lets you create word documents, spreadsheets and presentations online. It’s free and you can store as many documents as you like. Your work is automatically saved as you go, and because it’s online, you can access your documents from any computer with an internet connection. Your documents are safe because you need your username and password to access them.

You can even work on a document with multiple people. Just give them access to your file (share), and then you can all collaborate on the same document at once and see the changes live. Don’t worry, if someone makes a change you’re not happy with, Google Docs keeps regular backups of each version, so it’s easy to revert to an earlier version.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this easy description! Really enjoying your Techie posts!