The latest way to store your content
If you Google the word cloud, you'll find more than just a meteorological explanation for what's in the sky - you'll find a wealth of information on the growing technology that's taking the IT world by storm.
Many of us have had a computer crash on us and our information disappear into a black hole. To be on the safe-side we tend to keep numerous memory sticks full of photos or documents and CDs containing the same. Some of us will have moved onto portable storage hard drives for PC backup, but what's in place to backup the backup? Cloud computing is becoming increasingly popular and with more home products appearing on the market, it could be the solution.
What is the Cloud?
You may have heard the term 'Cloud' through various entities. Apple, Microsoft and Google are just some of the big names who have invested in this rapidly growing technology that's taking the computing world to new heights.
There are many variations of what Cloud computing is, but the term has derived to be a metaphor for the Internet. This fast-moving trend is meant to simplify the way we use computers and extend their capabilities. It's easiest to think of a Cloud as a virtual computer that is an extension to your existing one.
How does the Cloud work?
The majority of websites and software applications run on particular computers or servers and need to be compatible with an operating system such as Windows or Linux in order to work. What the Cloud does on a business scale, is to allow programs to operate independently of any computer or server configurations and be web-based instead.
What this means for home use is direct access to your files, folders and documents wherever you are in the world via a web-based application - in other words, the Cloud. So if you get to work and you've forgotten your presentation, log on to your personal Cloud via the internet and see your files as if they were on your own computer drives.
The most common home use of the Cloud is for extra storage of files and to synchronise and backup your devices. Some providers offer a free service but many require a monthly or annual subscription to purchase the software. You upload the content you want to be available through the Cloud and then access it through a secure logon.
This provides extra storage space for large files as well as the ability to access them remotely without having to carry a portable device. A lot of providers encrypt data for security. The downside to this is that a third party is hosting your content and if their servers have any issues you may not be able to gain access for a period of time.
The alternative however, is becoming increasingly popular. A personal Cloud offers the same as a public Cloud but you're in control of everything. A personal Cloud can be created through network drives or home servers such as the Seagate GoFlex Home Network Storage System. These are the same as external hard drives but with the ability to connect to your home network using broadband. The drives remain in your home, so you have the reassurance of knowing your data is stored securely on your device rather than with a third party online.
The hard drives can be used to back up your PC in the conventional way by USB but once connected to your network you have created your very own Cloud. You can then log on wherever you are in the world via a secure internet site and remotely access all your files.
How can I get a Cloud?
You get a Cloud with any network drive that can be connected to your home network, providing it offers the Cloud interface. The Western Digital My Book Live Duo is a great product for storage as well as the Cloud.
If you have one or more Apple products, then Apple's iCloud is free to use as long as you have the latest iOS 5 software on your Apple devices. It stores all your music, photos, documents and more, and wirelessly pushes them to all your devices. So if you download something on your Mac or PC, it will appear on your iPad or iPhone as well without having to sync the devices.
If you use iCloud enabled apps such as Keynotes or Mail, it automatically keeps all your documents, calendars and emails up-to-date across all your devices. Most importantly like any Cloud, the iCloud backs up all your data so if something happens it's all saved on the hard drive in the sky!