Monday, 25 February 2013

Cloudy working

Have you managed to ignore the concept of 'the cloud' on your computer so far? If so, could I politely suggest that you are bonkers?

Let's think of a humble file on my computer - say an article I've spent hours writing. Let's think of the pre-cloud me working with it. What happens if my computer hard disc dies horribly? Well, I will have backed it up. Probably. Certainly within the last week. Shame I only wrote it yesterday. Or let's imagine I'm 50 miles from home and suddenly need to access it. Well, tough. I can't.

Now let's think of post-cloud me. My hard disc dies? No problem, the latest version of the article is in the cloud and I can access it from any other computer. Need to get it remotely? No problem again. I can get to it from my phone, my iPad or a computer.

But isn't it complicated/expensive? No! It isn't. It's simple and for the kind of space you need for documents (if not photos and music) it's free.

The main cloud storage facilities work by setting up a new folder on your computer. Put anything in that folder and it is automatically duplicated in the cloud. Any changes are synchronized. That's all there is to it. Of course you have to slightly change your way of working, in that your documents will sit in that folder rather than your computer's Documents or My Documents folder - but that's hardly a chore.

Personally I use three free cloud services - Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive (Microsoft's version). They come with 2 Gb, 5 Gb and 7 Gb of free storage respectively - plenty for any document work. There's not a huge amount to choose between them in practice, though each offers subtly different features (you can see a useful comparison here). I would tend to recommend SkyDrive for Microsoft Office documents as the web version has built in Office editing tools, so you can tweak a document even if you don't have access to Office. There's no reason to use all three particularly, though I find it quite useful having different spaces for different types of documents.

If you want to go the whole hog and have all your photos and music up there, you can do that too, though typically you would go over these limits and need to pay an annual fee for extra space.

I come back to my original statement. If you aren't using one of these services, why not, short of inertia and folly? Rush out and do it today. Bear in mind that you are not tying yourself into only having access to your files when you have internet access. The folder is actually on your computer, it only synchronizes with a copy in the cloud. But why would you want to miss out on automated instant backup and the ability to access your files away from home?


4 comments:

  1. I am one of your bonkers friends Brian!! I'll have to pop round for coffee sometime soon and see how this works. I have I cloud on my phone, but can't remember my passwords, useless as well as bonkers!

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  2. Please do! It's very simple to use. iCloud doesn't really hack it for these purposes, as it's limited to Apple programs, but these services are more open.

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  3. With four computers in the house, why couldn't each computer be the backup for the other three?

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  4. They can if they are on the same network, though you would need a bit of software to do it automatically - the downside is that it doesn't help if a) they're stolen, b) there's a fire or c) you are at a different location and want to access your files.

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