Incredibly I’m talking about something even geekier. But bear with me… because you don’t need to be at all tech minded to take advantage of this.
You may have heard the term “cloud computing” bandied around and wondered what it means.
It’s a techie buzz word right now. One of those cool and somewhat snugly PR terms that doesn’t really mean anything to a lot of people.
I think it’s really worth explaining because if you’re not familiar with the “cloud” concept (and there’s absolutely no reason why you should be) you’re really missing out. It’s a fantastically useful tool and used properly could definitely ease your workload – at zero financial cost.
This has personally saved me a huge amount of time, hassle and stress.
So what is it?
Well, imagine if everything in your digital life (and by that I mean everything on your mobile phone, your computer… your laptop, your iPad) was available in one secure place at all times. One central hub that whirs away invisibly in the background doing clever things.
Imagine if when you changed a word doc on your PC it automatically synchronised the same changes with your laptop, your phone and the rest of your devices without you having to do anything.
That is what the cloud does. It’s a bubble that synchronises ALL your stuff as well as keeping it backed up and secure.
Let me give you some real world examples
You’re at work on Friday, it’s getting late and you know you’re going to have to doing some work over the weekend. Typically you might have to email yourself the word docs, excel spreadsheets, or whatever files you were working on, so that you can continue to work on them at home. Alternatively you might have a memory stick you save them to.
With the cloud you don’t need to do any of that. When you click save on the document at work, it saves it on that computer and then… here comes the clever bit… it magically logs the changes you’ve made on that document up in the cloud.
Now when you flick on your computer at home this file will load up exactly as you had it at work.
In other words you always have access to the most up-to-date version of the file. And you have access to these files from wherever you are.
This is a fantastic time saver. In the past I’d have thousands of different versions of the same files absolutely everywhere – on my desktop, my email, memory sticks… you name it. It was incredibly confusing knowing which was which and moreover I often found I was backing up several copies of the same thing manually.
And that’s another thing: backup. The cloud stores a copy online so that even if your computer explodes, those files still exist.
Where can you get it?
Loads of companies offer their own version of the cloud. Apple are launching theirs any moment now. Amazon have one, Microsoft have one as well.
The one I like is called Dropbox because for me it’s the simplest and most effective. It’s completely free and they offer you a very generous 2.5gb of space.
What happens when you download it?
Once you’ve connected it your free account effectively what happens is you get a folder on your PC or Mac called “Dropbox’. This looks like a normal folder… except everything you put it in this folder is stored in your cloud. You can store anything in this folder – pictures, videos, docs – more folders.
And that’s it. There really is nothing more to it.
Those files will be backed up online and available offline.
You just have to download Dropbox on all the devices you want to use it with. Once that’s done, everything in the ‘Dropbox’ folder is available to you from whichever device you’re using. There are even free smartphone Dropbox apps so that you can view files via your mobile phone.
What I haven’t mentioned yet is that it even allows you to share folders with other people (provided you give them permission to access them). This is ideal if you’re working on a joint project with someone and need to share files.
It’s also great if you want to share your most recent family photos with relatives.
You can probably tell I’m a bit of a Cloud/Dropbox fan but it really is one of those inventions that changes things. Something that seems so simple but can really change your life, especially if you’re operating on more than one device.