What is the cloud? That was the question; a client asked me when we commenced a discussion about decluttering and organising their digital content. My response to their question was, the cloud is a place you can store files. I could tell by the confused look on their face that I didn’t do an excellent job of explaining the cloud.

For many, the concept of the cloud is new, unclear and confusing and has nothing to do with the white fluffy things floating in the sky. If you are someone who is bewildered by the cloud, then don’t despair; I’m going to provide you with a basic overview of the cloud focusing on cloud storage. And I promise this overview will be a much better explanation than the response I offered to my client.

What Is Cloud Storage?

Cloud storage is hard drive storage (think USB) that lives in a remote location that you can store digital content in, using the Internet. Most things you store on your personal computer, hard drive or USB, you can also store in the cloud, for example:

  • Documents
  • Photos
  • Video
  • Music

How Do I Get Cloud Storage?

Chances are you already have access to free cloud storage if you have a standard email account such as Gmail or Hotmail/Outlook.

Below is a list of common cloud storage providers and how much free storage they provide at the time of writing this blog.

Provider: Google

Cloud Name: Google Drive

Free Storage: 15 GB

Provider: Microsoft

Cloud Name: OneDrive

Free Storage: 5 GB

Provider: Apple

Cloud Name: iCloud

Free Storage: 5 GB

Provider: Dropbox

Cloud Name: Dropbox

Free Storage: 2 GB

Depending on the amount of content you store in the cloud, the free storage limits might be enough. However, you can pay for additional storage if you require it. In many cases, if you are storing high volumes of content or large files, e.g. videos in the cloud, you may need additional storage.

The above are some of the more mainstream cloud providers; however, there are many other free and paid providers out there.

How Do I Access Cloud Storage?

You can access the cloud from a PC, Laptop, Smart Phone or Tablet that is connected to the Internet. Once the internet connection has been established, you can access the cloud content either via an App or Internet browser (e.g. Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, etc.). You will need to create/have a user name and password to access your cloud storage.

Note access to the cloud may vary depending on the provider chosen.

What Are the Benefits of Cloud Storage?

Some of the benefits of cloud storage include:

  • It saves storage space on your computer.
  • Rather than paying for new hard drives, you can use cloud storage to store files, especially if your PC/laptop has limited storage.
  • It streamlines all your content. You can access files any time from any device as long as you have access to the Internet—no need to worry about USB sticks, not working or being lost.
  • You can easily share documents with others without having to rely on USBs.
  • Great for disaster recovery. If you have content stored only on a PC, hard drive or USB and it dies or gets hit by a bus, you will lose all your content. If however, you have the content stored in the cloud, you would simply log back into the cloud with your new device and easily reaccess your content.

What Are the Disadvantages of Cloud Storage?

While the cloud does have many benefits, there are some things you need to be aware of:

  • You are reliant on needing to be on the Internet to access the content you have stored in the cloud.
  • There are security issues, such as hacking that may occur.
  • The terms and conditions may change; free accounts may reduce the amount of free storage they provide.

The cloud offers an alternative way to store electronic documents and other digital files than traditional hard drives and USBs. Using the cloud is a personal choice and something you need to be comfortable with before using it, given that your content is being stored on a hard drive that is located remotely.

This blog will continue to evolve and grow as I explore more about cloud storage. For now, I hope I have provided you with a better understanding of how cloud storage works. If you have questions or if something is unclear, please let me know in the comments.