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Whether we are aware of it or not, we are living among the clouds. We are, according to some definitions, already in heaven. I am talking about “the cloud,” as in the world of storage-less software applications that run in the background, without the need to install anything on you computer. The cloud has recently …   Read More

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are living among the clouds. We are, according to some definitions, already in heaven. I am talking about “the cloud,” as in the world of storage-less software applications that run in the background, without the need to install anything on you computer. The cloud has recently become more and more attention as photos of celebrities started to be shared on the internet, following the hacking of several celebrity iCloud accounts, accounts that permit individuals with the ability to upload their files, most of which in this case included revealing photos. Some people might have heard or read this news and become already more inclined to not only care less about the cloud, but if not become less interested in even partaking in any of it. The cloud, however, although risky at times, has the power to do wonderful things. It does have the potential to enhance every aspect of your life, if you let it.

Internet Speed

First let me explain, what the cloud is, the concept is really not new, but it is the idea of uploading files or data to the internet. It is only until high-speed internet became more widely available that cloud made sense, as you can imagine uploading during the time of the 56k modem would have been a torture. Even when internet speeds began to get faster and faster, the early DSL connections of between 2 megabytes per second to 5 megabytes per second, followed by cable with doubling of it didn’t really cut it. The cloud starts to make sense with internet speeds of 10 megabytes and up. If you are at lower that than, of course it will not stop working, but it will become more of a burden than a blessing. The cloud also makes more sense since more and more people thinking of their smartphones as their computers. The smart phone, after all, is the device they interact the most, these devices, due to size limitations, lack the ability to carry large storage capacity and while there are many ways to extend the storage capacity of some phones, the norm is that smartphones also tend to have this restriction, this is why streaming content and cloud is the general choice.

Identify what you would like to do

Once you have found yourself a good internet speed provider, with a 10 megabyte per second and up the next step is to consider what are some the things you like to do. Do you have large photography collection? Do you like to read articles from the internet? Do you something wish you could send large files without being limited by the attachment restrictions? Do you like to watch movies, but don’t want to rent or download them? Do you want to listen to music, but you would rather not buy CDs or download MP3s?

File sharing

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Dropbox is so easy to use, they have not problem showing their easy through their cute and easy to understand videos.

Once of the most clear ways the cloud can be beneficial is file sharing, I am not talking about file sharing in the sense of illegal sharing of music or movies, like Napster or Shazam once were known for illegal downloads and expensive lawsuits. If you want to share files with people, one of the better ways is using Dropbox, the service is free for up to 2 gigabytes of storage and more if you do other things like give a shout out to your friends. Dropbox becomes better if you decide to pay a fee and then better when you use it for work. Dropbox’s ability to facilitate file sharing and file collaboration if really good and becomes better when you extend it when you use it on your phone or tablet. The point is you can access your files from any computer without the files being downloaded. Box is probably next best choice, the model is pretty much the same as Dropbox, what varies is the user interface. Again Box can be used for personal use and work use, as the collaboration and sharing capacities are really great. A few other services like MediaFire are comparable but they don’t really measure up to the style of file collaboration Dropbox offers. I should also mention Google Drive, but word of caution, since it is Google, you are putting up your files in the risk Google takes ownership of whatever you post in the there.

Music listening

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Rdio stands out from the rest, because of how widelily available they are, not only through their many apps, but of the copyright hurdles they have been able to overcome. Their community of listeners is also a blessing where you are always discovering music from people with similar interests.

Who doesn’t like music? In the cloud, you are in luck, because music is so good in the cloud. A couple of services like Pandora and Spotify have done it well from the start, but one of the ones I like is Rdio. The concept is simple, either of these services have a huge amount of copyrights and royalties with pretty good number of artists, with a simple subscription you have access to hug library of music for which you do not need to download to listen to. What’s more, these services usually allow people to have profiles and create playlists, they can share with people and even collaborate on. If you wish, usually you are given the option to download some of the songs, so that when you don’t have an internet connection, like when you are in the subway. Again, as with the file sharing platforms, you can access all of your songs from your iPhone, iPad, laptop or anything that has an internet connection. What is even cooler is you can listen one device and continue listen on another. If you have a cool work environment, you can continue listening to the songs at work too.

Movie watching

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Netflix has become a household name, such as “the VCR” once was, except it is now much simpler than ever.

You should already have heard of Netflix, it is the most used and most known video streaming service. Netflix is another cloud services, which like Rdio or Pandora above allow you to stream content across many devices. The library of movies Netflix brings on is not bad, thought sometimes it can be hard to find a good movie, since they don’t always have a good selection at one point in time. If you want more selection of movies, you may try subscribing to Hulu, however you might be out of luck if you are not in the United States. There is also the library of movies offered by iTunes, though it is not subscription based, but rather works like renting a movie for a period of time, after which the movie rental expires. In a similar fashion Google offers this type of content rental through their Google Play website.

Reading

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The Readability app not only saves internet articles in an easy to read format, but also lets you play with the contrast, so you can make the text neutral, increasing font size and even send the content directly to your Kindle device.

If you like reading, this is perhaps is good news if you are embracing the cloud. Generally, good reads come in different forms, since we are living in the age of the internet, a lot these come from blog posts and internet articles. So, a nice tool for this is Readability, there are other like Pocket and Instapaper, but the principle is the same. The service allows you to send article you find and send them over to the reading service that not only stores the articles, but also converts them into an easy to ready format, with re-reflowable text. Let’s not forget books of course, so for this one of the best services offered is the one by Amazon’s Whispernet, which is cloud service that allows you to synchronize wha you are reading across devices. So, it means, if you are reading an e-book on an iPad,  you can continue later on Kindle reader, or iPhone or even a desktop computer through the Kindle app. More so, because Amazon also owns Audible.com, an audio book service, you can read an e-book and continue the book in its audio book format later, if for example, you are driving.

Task management

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Huddle is unique because it combines with task management along with file collaboration which is accessible from any device.

This is probably most applicable with work, however outside of work, we do carry other responsibilities. When it comes to work, you have several options, for the most part there is no option that encompasses all business needs. Perhaps the closest is Huddle, a cloud-based file collaboration and task management platform. And then thee are those who sole purpose is to do task management like SmartSheet. For personal use, there are also a few option, perhaps one of the best is the Things app, simply because of how easy is its user interface and because since it is also a cloud application, it allows you to sync the organization of your tasks across many devices, which is what makes it better.

Emailing

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Microsoft Office 365 is playing a good role in the world of the cloud. Their suite of apps that people are already accustomed work well across platforms and devices.

Perhaps the number one thing to do at work, it actually is, also can be the most time consuming and the place where most workers procrastinate or waste time. The reason being the number of spam and the number of emails to filter through. A big chunk of those emails come from workers, with this emails related to tasks or projects. One way to alleviate this is adopting a task management cloud service like Huddle which will take away the need to check emails for this, but simply going to the platform and see about tasks and documents. The other part of the puzzle is email itself, you want your email to be accessible from anywhere in the exact same manner you have organized with rules or email filters, with your signature and email folders all in sync. To be able to do this, you can use an IMAP email service, but more so one that does more than IMAP, for this I am talking a service like Office 365, which stems from Microsoft, the company we all know about. Microsoft Office 365 is undoing a lot of the bad publicity Microsoft has received along the years, specially when it comes to enterprise software. For a while SharePoint, was the way to collaborate files in organizations, after a while SharePoint became more of a burden than a help, so Dropbox, Box and Huddle came into the picture as the alternatives to SharePoint. When it comes to Office in the cloud, Office 365 does it better than say Google Docs, because of how well they are able to transmit and across platforms, the user interfaces does not vary much if you are working on a Mac, PC, iPhone, Windows Phone or Android device. This is exactly what a cloud based service should do and Microsoft is doing it well with Office365 and more so with their suite of apps.   There are more areas the cloud can benefit you, but let’s call this a start, there perhaps one area of growth we will be seeing in the next year is the vital tracking and information processing. This will come into place more when Apple releases the iWatch and wearables really take off, when vitals are tracked and storage it will translate into a number of applications. Another area will be electronic payment options Apple and other services will bring, in a sense the benefit might be using computing power to help you manage your money. These two, will have some resistance, because of the obvious privacy concerns. I hope this article allows you to start to embrace the cloud, because there is a vast potential on its careful use and if used with a conscious mind.

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