How to Create Your Own Personal Cloud
Someone I know lost a significant amount of data recently from their computer and I thought I'd share what I've learned about the cloud, backing up my data, and protecting my documents. This post is a little longer but is meant to offer instruction and assistance.
Have you ever lost pictures, music or documents from a crashed hard drive or a stolen computer?
If you have, join the club of millions of people who have had the same misfortune.
A hot topic in the world of technology is the “cloud.” What is it? What does it do? How can I get one?
I wanted to take a minute to demystify the cloud and offer a few suggestions as to how you can make it work for you. With multiple cloud services trying to get a piece of your wallet, here are some of the ways you and I can keep our money in our pockets and make life easier.
If you're a technology nut like me, you're probably familiar with the cloud and the various services available to the public. Also, if you're like me, you've tried most of them.
Every time I heard of a new cloud service, I'd try it out by uploading a bunch of files and then forgetting about them. Before using the tips I'm about to share with you, I had music, pictures and projects spread out among three or more services. Without being organized, I couldn't find anything I was looking for.
But what is the cloud?
The cloud is simply a fancy term for file storage in the internet.
Just like you have a hard drive on your computer, where you save your files and store your pictures and music, you can have a virtual hard drive in a company's computer for you to use.
A company will rent you personal cloud storage space on their hard drives and allow you to access it over the web or through an app on your phone. The difference is, your computer is at home most of the time where you can't get to the pictures and music stored on it.
Here are the most popular cloud storage providers:
Every one of those providers has an app on the Google Play Store except for iCloud. Each company provides 5 GB of storage to you for free (Dropbox starts you with 2). For perspective, that's approximately 1200 pictures from an 8 megapixel camera (ie from smartphones). 5 GB will also hold about 250 songs.
If you plan where you're going to store your files, you can maximize your storage and have access to what you want, when you want it, wherever you want it.
My personal favorite is Box. I'm not receiving any incentive from them to say so, I just happen to use them and prefer many of their capabilities. While most of these providers offer 5 GB for free, I signed up for Box during a promotion and received 50 GB from them.
What I'm sharing here are ways to get the most out of the free cloud storage solutions, regardless of the amount of storage you have with each.
By following these tips, every person can have a free personal cloud with almost 30 GB of storage, and have access to their pictures, music and documents anywhere.
Instead of having your documents spread out across multiple clouds, let me show you how you can simplify that and know where to go to find your files.
Just like you have multiple folders on your computer for different types of files, you can use the different cloud providers for the various types files – mp3s, etc. Using this method you have 5 GB for documents, another 5 GB for music and another 5 GB for pictures.
Music in the Cloud
Amazon's cloud and Apple's iCloud are my picks for storing your music.
Both services provide apps that play your mp3 (music) files right from your phone or computer.
Both services also allow your new music purchases to go directly into your cloud without taking up part of the 5 GB they offer you for free.
Additionally, with Amazon, if you purchase a physical CD, their “AutoRip” feature will automatically add the digital mp3 versions of the songs to your Cloud Player at no charge and without taking up additional space.
Here is what the Amazon Cloud Player looks like in a browser:
My recommendation is to use your Amazon Cloud Player or Apple's iCloud to store your music and nothing else. Buy new music from Amazon and upload your existing library with their tool to have access to your tunes everywhere.
Save your 5 GB of storage just for mp3 files and stream them directly for your mobile device or your PC. That way you know exactly where to go to find the song you're looking for instead of searching through another hosting service that's not optimized for music.
Documents in the Cloud
Microsoft's SkyDrive is purpose-built for storing and managing Office files like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc. By saving those types of files to your SkyDrive, you can keep them all in a central location. An added benefit is the ability edit your documents right there in your web browser (see below).
Microsoft may have come into the cloud game a little late (in my opinion), but I'm impressed with what they're offering. Below is a screenshot of the “Microsoft Word Web App” that I'm using to edit the resume template included in my Personal Branding Toolkit.
You can see that there is a lot of formatting functionality built into the web editor. For that reason, I suggest that you put your office-related files into your SkyDrive for editing and anywhere access.
Here is what the Microsoft SkyDrive Editor looks like in a browser:
For music, your best options are Amazon and Apple. For documents and spreadsheets, you'll find a feature rich solution with Microsoft's SkyDrive.
What about pictures and archiving/backup?
Pictures In the Cloud
Pictures can take up a significant amount of space. You may have dozens, even hundreds, of pictures saved. If your PC or smart phone is the only place you've stored those valuable memories, theft or a hard drive crash could be devastating. Like I have in the past, you too could lose everything.
Let me show you how to prevent that.
Again, my personal favorite is Box's solution. If 5 GB for free isn't enough for your needs, $9.99 a month gets you 25 GB of storage for archiving and backup. Additionally, Box has dozens of “apps” that allow you to use their service for a variety of things. For example, Box coordinates with Windows via Box Sync that allows you to create a sync folder on your desktop. Anything placed in that folder is automatically backed up to Box, synced across multiple devices, and accessible from anywhere. Put your pictures in the right sync folder and Box Sync will send those off to the cloud safe and sound.
Here is what the Box Sync for Windows looks like in action:
You can get more storage from Dropbox for the same price, but Box Sync has made my life much easier and made their service indispensable to my personal cloud. Plus, I can share a folder or a specific file with almost anyone via a web URL.
When you're all done, click on “My Computer” on your Windows Desktop and you should see folders like this:
When you add images to your box folder on your desktop, after the Sync, they'll be available on Box.com or your mobile device via app. It would look like this:
Instead of searching for a file among the various cloud services, keep them categorized and make it simple. That way you can get the right files on the right service and have the features you need.
Question: What cloud storage service do you use? Share your online backup tips below and let me know if this was helpful. Please leave a comment by clicking here!