If you are not familiar with Cloud services, please read a previous post to understand the basics at: https://todayspersonalcomputing.com/06-cloud/06-1-cloud-services-to-only-way-to-go-2012-0113/
The purpose of this article is to shed some light as to which Cloud service(s) you should be using. As usual, I will not do an exhaustive analysis of all the Cloud services in the market today. You can do that, if interested, by searching for such articles in Google. Instead, I will focus my attention on three Cloud services from market leaders, other than Apple. These are: Dropbox (Cloud market leader), Microsoft SkyDrive and Google Drive. I am not saying that the other Cloud services providers are not good, but in line with keeping things simple and dealing with market leaders, these three Cloud services can fulfill the requirements of most users.
The simplicity of using Cloud services
Most people when they hear “Cloud” services picture a complex technological undertaking that they will not be able to understand, let along use. It’s just the opposite! It’s so simple! Let me show you!
When you use a computer running Microsoft Windows (XP, 7 or 8), Windows supplies each user with a library of file folders called “Documents”, “Music”, “Pictures” and “Videos”. Once you create a document, let say using Word, you give it a name and file it in a document folder. To find yourself, when filing many documents, you create new file folders with different names inside the “Documents” folder. Then, you file your documents in the most appropriate ones. When you want to update one document, you navigate to the appropriate file folder and retrieve the document.
In Windows, when you access the folder often, you can move its title under “Favorites”, in the upper left end corner of the “Libraries” screen (the same screen where you find “Documents”). Then, when you want to access its content, instead of navigating down several levels of folders, you only Click on it under “Favorites” to access it directly.
When you install any of the three Cloud services described herein, the new software will create a NEW FOLDER called either Dropbox, SkyDrive or Google Drive under “Favorites”. All the rest will be done automatically for you by the Cloud service you use.
If, for example, you have installed Dropbox, the only things you have to do are:
- To back up all the folders that you have under “Documents” on external storage;
- Then, Copy all these same folders that you have under “Documents”, and Paste them inside Dropbox. It may initially take several hours, depending on the size of your files, for all the folders to be uploaded on the Dropbox Cloud storage. Keep your computer running until it’s done. A little green check on each folder indicates that it is synchronized with the Cloud storage.
- Then, verify that all your folders have all been copied into Dropbox (Check the titles and do sample tests on different folders). Once they are, delete the copied folders inside “Documents”.
- From now, on you will ONLY be working with the file folders under Dropbox instead of under “Documents”, which should be almost empty by now. You should only leave under “Documents” folders of programs that require a specific location for their files. In my case, my CAD software requires its folders to be in “Documents”. To know if specific program data can be moved to the Cloud, you try to filing it on the Cloud (inside the Dropbox folder) using that program File command. If its works like Quicken great, if not, you leave it there. THAT’S IT! From now on,Dropbox will automatically update the version it has on the Cloud every time you change that folder on your computer.
- Once Dropbox is operating properly on one computer, you install it on your other computers, tablets or smartphones with the same user name and password. Dropbox will each time copy all the files it has on the Cloud on each new device. Once again, the first time it may take several hours, so keep your device opened for the time of the transfer. Don’t forget to delete all the duplicates of your files you had on each of these other computing devices. You should always keep only one copy of you data in Dropbox on each device, other than backups.
- Once this has been done on each of your devices, anytime you change a file folder on one device, Dropbox will automatically update it on all other devices. NOTE: you must adjust your tablets and smartphones settings to ensure this type of synchronization. Then each time you open a device, you will notice that Dropbox immediately updates the files you updated on other devices. Give it a few minutes to complete that work.
- Now that all your data files are on the Cloud you have instantaneous backup of those data files. When you buy a new device, for example, you only have to install Dropbox on that new device and the latest version of all your data will automatically be copied onto that new device. Remember the days when you had to transfer all your files to a new computer, these days are gone! Remember the days when you had to wary about keeping your files synchronized between computers, these days are gone!
If you are still skeptical, just try it with one file to convince yourself on how easy it is to do. You cannot do any harm to your computer and it does not take time. Ten minutes at the most. Don’t wary! Finish reading this article and try it!
Dropbox is an initial market leader in Cloud services. Its motto is: “Simplify your life” and it does. In my opinion, it is the simplest to install, to learn and to use. In addition, it is the fastest to update your files and has the most applications that use it. Therefore, if you want to “Simplify your life” install and use Dropbox.
Critics who are looking for FREE Cloud services will say: “Yes, but it only provides 2 Gb of FREE storage”. Once again, if you want to “Simplify your life” pay the $99 per year to get 100 Gb which should satisfy most everyone’s needs and that it! You can download Dropbox at: www.dropbox.com . Consult their “Help” section to get answers to most of the questions you may have.
Personally, I have been using Dropbox for a year and it has satisfied all my Cloud storage requirements. Never a glitch! Specifically, all my computer folders are on Dropbox. This way, I can access them for all my computing devices: desktops, laptop, tablet and smartphone. I store my Quicken files on Dropbox, so that I can update my finances from any device. I also backup my eWallet GO password file on Dropbox. This way, not only do I work on the latest version of all my material, but it provides instant backup for all my critical data.
In this day and age, people that do not move their data on a Cloud service such as Dropbox are missing the boat! I know it’s a change of habits, but in this case it is so minimal that there are no reasons not to do it. Most people I know are not rigorous in taking regular backups. Just for having constant backup, it is work doing the move.
Read the following blog on this site to learn how to share file folders: https://todayspersonalcomputing.com/06-cloud/06-02-dropbox-folder-sharing-2012-12-24/ .
SkyDrive renamed OneDrive (by Microsoft)
Officially Microsoft SkyDrive, previously Windows Live SkyDrive and Windows Live Folders. Microsoft has been offering various forms of Cloud storage over the last several years. Its latest version of SkyDrive is now quite similar, in terms use and behavior, to Dropbox. Once you’ve installed SkyDrive, it behaves exactly as Dropbox, as described above.
For people that want FREE Cloud storage, SkyDrive offers 7 Gb free, versus 2 Gb free from Dropbox. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out what Microsoft is trying to do to Dropbox, a Cloud market leader. Microsoft has also understood that you can’t beat “Ease of use”. Since the two services offer similar ease of use, one can use one free service to store its pictures, for example on SkyDrive, and its documents on Dropbox.
Google offers its Drive Cloud services. Once installed on your computer, it is located under “Favorites” under “Libraries”, the same location as Dropbox and SkyDrive. You can move your file folders into Drive the same way as you would for Dropbox, as described above.
On the other hand, there are some major differences between Google Drive versus Dropbox and SkyDrive. The following article describes them well: http://www.pcworld.com/article/254490/the_problem_with_google_drive.html . The bottom line is that, if you are a user of Google’s browser based applications (Word, Excel,…) you should use Google Drive which is well integrated. Otherwise, use Dropbox or SkyDrive. You get 5 Gb free with Drive. You can get 25 Gb for $30/yr and 100 Gb for $60/yr.
In my case, since I am a heavy user of Google Gmail, Contacts and Calendar, and since I plan to expand my use of Google’s other offerings, I will use Google Drive to store copies of my important emails for future references. I hope that Google makes that process easy in the near future. Currently, I start Print of the email, then using the Snipping Tool I paste it on a Word sheet to file. Not very elegant but it works.
Data security on the Cloud
The survival of Cloud services companies depends on the security of the data they store on their servers. Think of the lawsuits they would face if there was a breach! They therefore put in place all necessary measures to ensure data security. Your data is encrypted before leaving your computer and remains encrypted thereafter. There is also a copy of your data on your each of your computers. Finally, you should take regular backups. If you have data security concerns to the point of not using Cloud services, you better never fly, walk on the street or ride in your car which represents greater risk for your survival.
Conclusions: SkyDrive versus Dropbox
Dropbox is the master of the hill for synchronizing a multitude of formats on a multitude of devices. It also syncs faster, especially on a LAN.
On the other hand, if you are a user of Microsoft browser base versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, you should use SkyDrive since Dropbox can’t compete in that arena.
Lastly, nothing prevents you from using both or all three as indicated above, especially since they all operate the same way and you can move from one to the other by Copying and Pasting folders.
The key message is GET ON THE CLOUD, NOW!