By Joe Levi | August 22, 2013 7:15 AM
The cloud is becoming more integrated into our daily lives. We send and receive emails, coordinate our schedules, and even backup and share our photos using the ever-expanding “cloud”.
The “cloud”, however, is a very big place, its definition can be quite ambiguous, and there are many companies offering cloud-based solutions. Many of us use an email provider that lets us not only send and receive messages through their service, but read, search, organize, and reply through any browser in the world — all thanks to the cloud. The cloud even let’s us watch movies, listen to music, and even upload and store our own photos. Yes, the cloud is a very, very large place.
All that having been said, here’s how we at Pocketnow use the cloud in our personal as well as our professional lives.
I primarily use the cloud in the same way much of the world uses the cloud: email. Yahoo, Live, Gmail — any time you visit a website to see your email, you’re using “the cloud”, even though most people probably don’t realize it, and some of them probably can’t even spell “cloud”.
I also use cloud storage for each and every Pocketnow piece that I write. I almost never write editorials from my desktop PC, preferring instead the portability of my Ubuntu-flavored laptop. Every article is then automatically transferred via Ubuntu One to my desktop where I then do proofreading, Photoshopping, etc.
The cloud absolutely makes every aspect of my mobile tech life easier — storage of photos, contacts, and e-books are all reliant on connectivity. Because of the cloud I have abandoned almost all other forms of portable storage — CD’s, DVD’s, flash drives, etc.
A combination of Dropbox, Box.com, Skydrive, and Ubuntu One all serve as cloud storage for me. In fact, I really need to consolidate…
I’m a big user of SkyDrive for my cloud-syncing of files. I’ve got the grandfathered 25 GB free account which I use for personal files as well as sharing certain documents with clients. It syncs with all of my PCs, my phones, and even the Xbox. As I take photos with my Windows Phone, the new pictures will appear on my Windows 8 tablet and desktop PC’s Live Tile, or I can go to the Xbox on the big screen and scroll through my photos that way.
I also use SkyDrive for sharing photos that I’ve taken for clients. I can export JPGs from my photo editing software straight to a SkyDrive folder that auto-syncs with the server. If I’ve already given the client permission access to that folder, she can see the images update as they sync.
Of course, I also use SkyDrive for syncing files that I’m working on individually between multiple PCs at the office as well as on my Surface Pro. It’s a little easier than having to deal with USB memory sticks as long as the files aren’t too large.
OneNote is another big cloud application that has changed my life. That program is probably the best note taking and research software around. It syncs with SkyDrive too, but also includes shared notebook support. So, for example, when I’m planning a trip with a friend or two, we can keep a shared notebook on all of our devices with consistent access to flight information, grocery lists, event schedules, a cost analysis, receipts, maps, location addresses, phone numbers, even file attachments. All of my SkyDrive data is copied and synced on multiple, PCs so if the cloud “breaks”, I’m pretty confident that I’ll still have access to my data.
While the Xbox Music Cloud Collection does not appear within my Microsoft ID’s SkyDrive account, it’s still another cloud service associated with it. There I’ve got just about all of my music stored and I can stream or download it from any of my Windows Phone 8 or Windows 8 devices as well as the Xbox 360. All of my Xbox 360 gaming progress and data is also saved to the cloud.
That is not to say that Microsoft’s cloud services are completely trustworthy. Since Windows 8 and Windows Phone also manage contact linking between Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Outlook.com, Exchange, and Gmail contacts, at one point those linking relationships got corrupt somehow and many of my contacts became linked to the wrong people. This caused incoming emails, messages and phone calls to start showing the wrong name and photo for the person trying to contact me. It was horrible! Then there’s the issue of what happens when certain cloud services get discontinued. For example, one of my favorite games; “Galactic Reign” on Windows 8 and Windows Phone is heavily cloud-reliant. It uses remote servers to render beautiful 3D space battle scenes on the fly based on each player’s input. However as of December 31, 2013, the cloud servers that support this game will be shut down and it will no longer be playable.
So while I’m seeing and using many advantages associated with cloud computing, I’m also seeing some huge disadvantages.
I am happy to be on a carrier that is offering me dirt-cheap unlimited data. It’s been like this for quite some time and I hope it will remain the same. Those who follow my opinions and work know that I keep on saying: even an 8 GB-enabled smartphone is enough for me. That’s because all I have is in the could. And I mean everything.
My phone barely holds basic apps. Pictures, documents, music, and everything else there is, is stored either in the cloud, or streamed. This way I can not only ensure that my data is safe should I lose my phone, but I can seamlessly switch to another device, and have everything ready to be used (listened to, watched). Whether it’s auto-upload of pictures I snap, streaming music from Spotify, or directly working with documents in the cloud, I’m heavily relying on virtual storage.
Yes, there is a downside: times when I’m abroad on vacation, or on a business trip (like covering IFA, MWC, or another event). Roaming charges prevent me from accessing anything in the cloud, but that’s only until I get a local SIM card with “all you can eat” data. The fun resumes then, and everything comes back to normality.
I heavily rely on Dropbox to bridge the gap between Android, iOS, Mac, and PC. I use it for my documents, as well as (and most importantly) my photos. I wish that Dropbox had a dedicated photo app for Android and iOS, but both apps contain a tab for pictures that gives you a thumbnail preview. Using automatic upload, I can beam every photo and video I’ve taken on my phone to the cloud so that it’s instantly available on my other devices. No matter what phone I’m testing (as long as it’s Android or iOS), my photos are always with me. It’s heaven. I also have Photo Stream running on my iPhone, but it’s really disappointing that videos are still not supported.
I use four cloud services, out of which I’ll admit I only love two. Dropbox is my favorite since it’s a simple drag-and-drop of files within my computers, and syncing is seamless, where I do notice lots of lag in competing services (like Google Drive). I love the fact that many services integrate with Dropbox, and as a matter of fact, I don’t keep any files on any computer, outside of my Dropbox, so that I always carry the same documents everywhere, regardless of which computer, smartphone or tablet I use.
The second service I like most is iCloud, though ironically not because of its computer benefits, since I feel they lag behind Dropbox even on the Mac. I like it mainly because I find iOS Photo Stream awesome. Other things I enjoy are the seamless back-up and restore services for iOS devices, etc. The iPhone 5 is my main camera, and the iPad is my main tablet, so this makes sense. The fact that I can buy a song here, play it there, rent a movie here, play it there, or share a private Photo Stream with most of my buddies just makes it cool for me.
I do use Google Drive for work, and yeah, I do like Google Docs in a way, but their sync services on the Mac are still terrible and slow IMHO, so I don’t use it for file sharing. The other service I use is Box.net, but mainly for uploading my music archive, since I can stream it from mobile devices. The only reason why I don’t take Box.net more seriously, is because they lack good computer clients.
Overall, the needs of everyone vary. Dropbox and iCloud may not work for you as well as they work for me, but so far, I do feel they’ve nailed it better than anyone.
When I think of “the cloud”, I generally think of cloud-based storage and delivery systems. Although I’m an Android Guy, I find myself using Dropbox much more than I do Google Drive. It seems easier and is all around more convenient — not to mention the fact that I’ve got around five times as much space available to me (for free) on Dropbox.
Writing for Pocketnow (and the dozen or so other websites that I contribute to), I find myself “in the cloud” almost all the time. My writing is done via web-based content management systems, published, and made available for people just like you to read at your leisure through your web browser or mobile device.
I, like some other editors, have an “unlimited” data plan. Mine happens to be through T-Mobile. That’s great, and I find myself using cloud-based content delivery more frequently, but I long for the times when I can “escape” from the cellular-covered world into the wilderness, far away from signals that buzz through the air. I still like to take pictures, read e-books, and even enjoy a movie or two while waiting for night to fall (or the meteor shower to begin). In those cases, the cloud simply isn’t there. If I don’t have my content on my device, I can’t get to it at all. The cloud should augment — not replace — on-device storage.
I basically live in the cloud.
Whether it’s work email hosted in a persistent inbox, or remote storage services like Drive, Box, and Dropbox, or memo-taking solutions like OneNote and Evernote, “the cloud” has overtaken my mobile life in a near-total sense. And it happened quickly — too quickly for me to notice, really. By the time 2011 rolled around and I was making fun of Microsoft’s ridiculous “To the cloud!” commercials for their obvious and unfunny vagueness, my digital life was already almost completely hosted within the very nebulous realm I was deriding.
The main plus, natch, is the added portability of all my data. That’s an advantage enjoyed by everyone who uses cloud-based solutions, but it’s especially prized by tech writers constantly shifting between devices. So I tend to prefer cross-platform cloud services, which are actually more common than you might think. It’s easy to access Google Drive on iOS, for example, or OneNote or SkyDrive on Android. Sadly, that kind of interoperability isn’t always guaranteed on Windows Phone, but third-party solutions can sometimes provide a stopgap option. Day by day, we’re getting closer to making a reality of the mythical “continuous client,” and it’s all thanks to cloud computing.
Chief News Editor
I use the cloud as little as possible. Wait, maybe that’s not right. After all, I’m still a little fuzzy on what constitutes this whole “cloud” business.
If the cloud is just doing stuff on remote computers via the internet, then yes – everything I do is in the cloud. But if we’re talking managed storage services – nope. Sure, I access a few shared documents for work, but when it comes to storage in general I steer clear of all the Drives and Dropboxes out there.
Instead, I’ve got a personal server I access via FTP. I upload files for storage, and if I want to share them with friends, I can always place them in a directory that’s publicly viewable via web server. Full control, no oversight: everything I want from a “cloud” storage solution. It’s cheap, and a heck of a lot easier to administer than I bet most people realize.
A DIY approach like this can also be incredibly flexible. I remember a college job I had back in 2001 or so, where I wanted something to listen to at work, so I moved all my MP3s to my server and streamed them at my convenience. It took Google a solid decade before it would offer similar functionality from its own cloud services.
In my personal and work life, I put the cloud through its paces. I use Dropbox and Copy for online storage and sharing files between various devices, co-workers, and friends and family.
For example, since I use Google Voice as my primary SMS client and it doesn’t offer MMS, I upload pictures to Dropbox and simply share the link instead. I also store all the music I have purchased in Google Music. Using Google Drive, I share documents between co-workers. And Copy, since I have over 300GB for free for life, is my online backup source for … everything.
I also use the cloud to sync everything I ever write for Pocketnow. I use nvALT to write all my articles and scripts in plain text. It saves all the content to a Dropbox folder, which automatically syncs to my online account. I then can use Draft (Android) or iA Writer (iOS) to access all my work via mobile, or write via mobile and sync to my laptop.
I would venture to say Dropbox is by far the must frequented cloud app on any of my devices, and it has made my life so much easier.
And I haven’t ran into any major kinks with any cloud service … yet. (Knock on all the wood.)
The Pocketnow Reader
How do you use “the cloud” in your everyday life (both personal as well as professional)? Has it made your life easier or more complex? Do you have any “cloud to the rescue” or horror stories? Has your reliance on “the cloud” ever come back and bit you in the buttocks? If so, care to share? Do you have a contingency plan for if/when the cloud fails you?
We want to hear about it! Share your experiences (good, bad, or ugly) in the comments below!