As the internet has grown and morphed over the past 20 years, so have the services that go along with it. What started out as a screechy, slow, annoyingly undependable feature of old computers is now one of the most important utilities in our homes.
The internet truly has changed everything.One technology service that has really blossomed over the past 5 years or so is the cloud. Most folks have no idea what the cloud is, so I’m going to help out with that. I’ll let you know how it works, why it’s awesome, and how it pertains to home media.
First, what is the cloud?
Before I can tell you about the cloud, I have to tell you a little bit about how the internet itself works. What people don’t realize is that the internet isn’t a central hub of things that people access. The internet is basically just a whole bunch of computers that are connected and talk to each other. To keep the explanation really simple, when you visit a website, you’re basically just trading information with a computer or computers in a different place.
Since the internet is just a massive data exchange between different computers, and internet speeds are getting really fast, people started figuring out that you could pay big companies to store your stuff for you--kind of like a lockbox at a bank. That wasn’t really possible with 56k modems, because they couldn’t transmit data fast enough. But with faster cable and fiber internet, folks figured out that you could store your stuff on a computer across the USA and access it essentially as fast as you could on your own hard drive.
That’s what the cloud is: a bunch of big storage drives that save your stuff so that you don’t have to keep it on your actual computer. The cloud has some other additional benefits that actually make it preferable to saving stuff on your own device: you can access your files anywhere, storage is mostly unlimited, you don’t have to worry about losing all of your stuff if your laptop, phone, or tablet accidentally combusts. The cloud functions as a helpful backup and a primary storage option for all sorts of files and data--including pictures, videos, and audio files.
Cool, cloud, got it...so how do you use it?
There are actually a ton of cloud solutions out there. The only problem is that most of them are geared towards businesses, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some really good options for regular folks like you and me. In my opinion, these are the top 3 options for home use.
Christian’s #1 Choice: Google Drive
Google offers incredible cloud storage options, and it’s all available for free. In addition to the best free email account money can buy, you also get awesome programs like an Excel and Word alternative, as well as an incredible photo and video storage library. Best of all, you can add the Google Photos app to your phone, and it’ll automatically backup all of your pictures and videos right when you take them. Then, you can login to Google and look at your photos on any computer or device you want. Google Drive is the bees’ knees.
Christian’s Backup (Ha, backup, get it?): Apple’s iCloud
If you have an Apple device--and let’s be honest, most of us do--iCloud is a pretty cool service. Each Apple ID comes with a built-in iCloud backup that protects a bunch of the data on your phone. If you’re wanting to store all of your photos and videos on the cloud too, you’ll probably need to upgrade the storage. Don’t worry though, upgrading is cheap. I pay $.99 per month for an extra 50 GB.
If you must: DropBox
DropBox is the sort of the original cloud storage platform. It was really groundbreaking at the time of its development, but its technology has lagged behind some of the big hitters in the past couple of years. Its features aren’t as dazzly and integrated as Google and Apple, but it’s still preferred for small and medium sized businesses. You can save your personal media library there, but it would probably not be as seamless to use as the two options above.
The cloud is awesome. It makes your media library borderless and deviceless. You can log into your account anywhere and access whatever media you want. It can be really convenient for all sorts of uses: school, work, play, espionage--whatever you’re into.
Just don’t give away your password to anyone!