I recently moved all my data into the cloud, joining a growing number of users taking full advantage of services like iCloud and Google Play.
The talk about storing data in the almighty “cloud” has swirled through the tech industry for the past few years and has been a reality for some time, but I did not pay attention to the possibilities of services like SkyDrive, Google Play and even iCloud until now.
Flashback two weeks ago, when I was talking with a friend who was about to buy a 64-gigabyte iPad as his primary computing device. The idea is not a foreign one, as many people now use the tablet daily, leaving their laptops at home. However, I had questions about how he, a heavy media user and avid music downloader, could get away with only using an iPad. His answer: “I’m living in the cloud.”
Once he walked me through how he stores his music, photos and documents, my idea of being chained to my 15-inch laptop and its 250-gigabyte hard drive seemed archaic to me. After selling my old laptop in favor of a 13-inch Macbook Air with just 128-gigabytes of storage space, I decided it was time. I needed to get my digital life in order. I needed to move into the cloud, and here’s how I did it.
There are a few options for storing music in the cloud. ITunes Match probably makes the most sense for someone who owns three Apple devices. But like many, I was interested in doing it in a way that wouldn’t cost me any money, and it costs $25 a year to take full advantage of the service.
Enter Google Play: it’s perfect for those looking for free storage, since the service is free for anyone who has a Gmail account. It took a while, but I uploaded all 14-gigabytes of my music to the cloud. Now, I do not have a single song on my computer. When I want to listen, I log on to Google Play and stream directly from the cloud. It’s instant, easy and it doesn’t cost me or the 128-gigabytes of flash memory on my Air a thing.
Google Play fills my mobile needs. For $2, Melodies Pro from the iOS App Store is a great Google Play client. It allows you to stream all the music you’ve uploaded to the cloud, and if you’re not going to have Wi-Fi or data access, you can download as much as you want for offline play. Whenever I download new music I upload it to Google Play and I have it wherever I go. To the right is an image of the Melodies Pro app running on iOS.
Let me be clear, iCloud is nothing new. The service has been around for a year, and I’m almost ashamed to say it, but I didn’t have it properly set up until very recently. However, now that my iPhone, Macbook and iPad all run on the latest software and iCloud is in sync, I don’t know how I ever lived without it. Contacts, notes, photos from the last 30 days, calendars, reminders, bookmarks and documents are all completely synchronized throughout my devices and it’s effortless. If I take a photo on my iPhone and need to edit it on my Macbook at home, it’s there. If I start writing an article on the Macbook and want to pick it up again on the iPad later, I can do that too.
Users who have iCloud set up properly throughout their Apple devices know I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s easily one of the biggest advantages to committing to the iOS platform. Just make certain every thing you want stored in the cloud is checked off on all your Apple devices, and be sure you’re logged into iCloud with the same e-mail address on all of them. Between iCloud and Google Music, I will never again hook my iPhone or my iPad up to my computer, and it’s a beautiful feeling.
ICloud does a very good job of getting my new photos to all my devices the second I take them. But again, remember, I’m working with 128-gigabytes of storage on my Air and I don’t want several gigs of old and new photos taking up precious space. For a solution to this problem, I turn to Microsoft SkyDrive. A quick installation of SkyDrive gives me a folder on my desktop that I can drag and drop all of my photos into, giving me quick access to them on my computer without worrying they’re taking up any space.
Google Drive is a very similar service, but only gives users 5-gigabytes of storage, compared to SkyDrive’s 7-gigs. SkyDrive also beats out Google Drive through the mobile experience. When I’m on the move, the SkyDrive iOS app easily lets me access all photos and other files I put into my folder at home. Whether I want to show off pictures from my latest Florida vacation or embarrass my little brother by showing all his friends his baby pictures, it’s all at my fingertips, without taking up even a kilobyte of space on my devices.
I let iCloud take care of all essentials that I don’t want to think about; contacts, mail, bookmarks and my app downloads, among other things. For music, I turn to Google Play and when it comes to photos I look to SkyDrive. The result is a laptop that does not house a single photo or song via local storage, giving me plenty of space to download applications and video while also allowing me to have access to pretty much any of my files wherever I go.
What you might notice is I didn’t put all my eggs in any one basket. Apple’s services take care of the essentials, my music is in the hands of Google and Microsoft is looking after my photos.
Each service has its strengths and by doing things this way I’m officially living in the cloud at absolutely no cost to me except for a few hours of my time to get it all set up. My digital life is officially in order and the cloud makes keeping it that way almost effortless. ♦