Cloud storage is a great way of sharing files between your computers, tablets and smartphones and also for sharing with others. Basically your content is stored on computer servers out there on the internet. That content is synchronised with all your devices so that you see the same information no matter how you access it.
On your computer the service appears just like any other folder: you can create other folders within it, and move or copy any number of files up to your storage limit. The contents of the storage area are automatically synchronised so that you can view any file on any of your devices.
To share a file or a folder from your computer you can simply right click and choose share link for the appropriate service—e.g. Dropbox. This places the link in your clipboard from where you can paste it into an email and send it. So for example for someone else to view a collection of photos all you need to do is send them the link to the folder. You don’t need to email lots of files.
You can also invite others to share in a folder, which means each member of the sharing group can alter files or add new ones. This is useful when you are collaborating on a project with someone and you are both working on the same documents. Or if you go on holiday with friends you can both put your photos into the same folder. This method of sharing is set up by logging into your account for the service in question—e.g. www.dropbox.com.
The other benefit of these services is that once set up, you can access the content from any computer connected to the internet by logging in to your account. So you could for example access key documents while you are abroad.
It is important to note that these services mirror the contents on each device. So if you delete a file from the stored service on one device, that deletion will be reflected on all the other devices so that they remain in sync. Hence you cannot use these services for backup unless they specifically state that this additional function is part of the offering. Usually this applies only to the business version of the service, or where you have paid for additional storage. If you want to use such a service for backup, do check if it is provided for the service you are interested in.
With the free version of Dropbox you can recover within 30 days a file which is accidentally deleted.
How to Get Started
The first step is to visit the webpage for the chosen service and create an account. Each service has a free allowance. You can get additional storage for a monthly or annual fee. Some also offer incentives to obtain additional storage.
The main providers, with their free allowance, are:
|iCloud Drive (Apple)||5Gb||www.icloud.com|
Many Internet Service Providers (ISP) also offer this service—e.g. BT Cloud. Check the website for your ISP for additional information.
Once you have created your account you can download a program from the website onto your computer which will add the storage service as a folder in your main folder view, so you can access and use it like any other folder.
You can also download the app for iPhone or Android so that you can see the same contents on your tablet or smartphone.