The cloud revolution would never have happened if it were something that consumers could only blindly jump into. Just think about that: one day you suddenly ditch your hard-drive and all of its many years of accumulated video, music, documents, software, and beyond, and trust it all to a hopefully very reliable broadband Internet connection and a series of distant servers. The very idea of an all or nothing approach causes even me, a tech writer and tech optimist, a fair amount of anxiety.
This is a bit like what Google attempted last year with the introduction of its Chromebooks – a series of laptops designed around external, cloud-based storage and software. However, its flat sales might be indicative of consumer hesitation towards the all-in approach. Fortunately, the development of cloud-based computing has made it very easy, natural even, to take a more incremental approach towards cloud-based adoption.
In fact, several aspects of the cloud are already intuitive enough that you might not even realize they have anything to do with “the cloud” when you use them. Google Docs – soon to be known as the more cloud-nodding Google Drive – was an early cloud-computing tool, and a wildly successful one. This was almost certainly many consumers’ first regular experience with not just storing documents in the cloud, but with using actual cloud-based software.
When I started using Google Docs for writing several years ago, I sure didn’t use it for all of my writing, but when I needed to work on a document from multiple places or with other people, it was a perfect solution and my usage has only increased with time. Although, I still do a fair amount of writing in WordPad (which is more idiosyncratic than anything).
Another thing you probably haven’t thought about in cloud terms until very recently is music. Remember the heyday of MySpace? You were in a very real sense streaming songs from the cloud. Flash forward to 2012 and we now have several super-advanced music oriented streaming services, including the titan Spotify. I can say that Spotify has all but eliminated the idea of the iTunes music collection in my life. There are still a few things I need to keep stored locally that the service doesn’t have available for high-quality streaming, but I have become bold enough to start deleting things from my hard-drive.
So, maybe by now, you’ve warmed up to the idea of cloud-computing a bit. You’ve got some documents floating around Google’s servers and that album you haven’t thought about in years is now streaming through your speakers. So let’s talk security. It’s only the next natural phase.
Very basically, the cloud allows you to store your files in more than one place: at home and in the cloud. Your computer is vulnerable to all sorts of things from devastating malware attacks to errant cups of coffee. With Norton Online Backup (or many other backup providers) you can backup to the cloud seamlessly, easily and by allowing the service to do all of the legwork. Your role is simple: sign up and give the service some basic instructions about what and when to back up. That’s it.
Of course, once you’re in this deep, you may way to see what else the cloud can do for you. Maybe you could start with uploading your music collection to either Apple or Amazon’s streaming services in order to stream your music rather than share it. Or perhaps with Dropbox, a neat and very user-friendly service, that allows users to place a cloud folder anywhere on their computer, allow yourself access to various important documents on the go – from anywhere you choose to access them from.
And this is just the beginning – storage aside, there’s an entire world of web applications waiting to be discovered or that we haven’t even thought of yet. Imagine being able to use something as powerful as Final Cut Pro via a software sharing service. The future of the cloud is very bright. Now that you have a better idea of what it’s all about, the only thing left to do is jump in.