Trying to stay current with technology can be tough, since things seem to be changing all the time. Just when you were getting used to computers, they turned into phones and now no one makes eye contact anymore. If you have a smartphone, you don’t need a car, a kitchen or a television. The latest staple that has been innovated out of our lives is paper. You don’t need copies of directions, lists or photos anymore – all that lives in the cloud now. And if you don’t know what the cloud is, you’re not alone. This week, we’re going to tell caregivers, loved ones and anyone else who’s curious what exactly the cloud is, and where you can find one of your own.
“When you were young / and your heart / was an open book,” clouds were fluffy white things that moved across the sky. But we do live in an “everchanging world”, and clouds are now much more useful and yet still untouchable. A cloud is a network of servers accessible via the internet where data is stored. (A server is a big hard drive that houses databases, files, games, and applications so that other computers like the one you’re reading this blog on can access its information.) Watch this video for another explanation of the cloud and how it works.
Clouds used to be exotic, expensive, and practical only for big business. Now everyone who uses a computer or smartphone uses a cloud in some way. Facebook, Google and Amazon are all cloud-based, as are your banking, your email, and your entertainment. Before the cloud, in the olden days of 2005, for example, you bought a CD with Microsoft Office on it, uploaded it to your computer, and entered in the Product Key to prove you were the legitimate owner. That software lived on your computer’s hard drive – which is the opposite of a cloud – and if you wanted to create something in Word or Excel, you had to do it on your own machine. Today, Office 365 is on the cloud, so monthly subscribers log in from phones, tablets and laptops to access the latest version of each program from one account. The cloud makes everything accessible from everywhere there’s an internet connection.
The cloud is useful for people running families, businesses or school projects, since the tools are suitable for all kinds of uses. Storing documents, photos, and music are the most common ways we use the cloud, and there are four major clouds that do this:
- iCloud: Apple lets you keep photos, videos, music, documents, a calendar, and even the apps on your phone in their cloud. If you have an iPhone or an iTunes account, or both, you are using the iCloud. Your iPhone already backs up to the cloud, but you can store everything you want there, if you purchase additional space.
- Amazon: yes, Amazon is where you buy everything, from groceries to clothes to books, but it also offers cloud storage. Amazon Drive offers 5GB of space for free to anyone for photos, documents, videos and more. Prime subscribers get unlimited photo storage with their account, along with 5GB for all other files, and up to 100GB for another $11.99 each year.
- Google Drive: Google wants to be your one-stop-shop, with free storage, programs and services. Google Drive offers 15GB of storage for free, but you can get up to 100GB for just $1.99 a month.
- OneDrive: Microsoft OneDrive comes with Windows 10, and anyone can sign up for 5GB of free storage with a Microsoft email account. Extra space is available for a monthly subscription.
Why is the cloud taking over? Because your information is safer on Google or Amazon’s servers than on your hard drive or phone. Fire, water, soda, dogs, or viruses can destroy, corrupt or render inaccessible every bit of information important to you, if it’s all kept on a single physical piece of equipment. When your data is in a server, it’s protected from all kinds of natural and man-made disasters, and each server has a back-up of its own. That’s a level of security for your irreplaceable files that you can’t duplicate at home.