The Cloud: What is it, Why do I want it, and How much does it cost?

We’ve all been there. Your trusty old computer was getting slower and louder, but as long as it turned on, all was well. Then one day, completely out of the blue, silence. No lights, no sounds. In an instant, photos of your family vacations, wedding, and graduation appear to have made the transition from megabytes to biting the dust. Years of school papers, innumerable hours spent accumulating a vast music collection – all of it a mere memory.

So what do you do? Well, if you had been using Google Drive, SugarSync, Dropbox, or Box, you’d simply buy a new computer, install your cloud application of choice, and download your files.

The Cloud – What is it?

The “cloud” is simply a term used to describe web applications and web storage. Every cloud service works differently, but they operate under the same principle: Your data is safe. In the case of SugarSync, you can choose any number of ¬†folders on your computer to synchronize with SugarSync’s servers. From any device capable of browsing the web, you can login to SugarSync’s website and have access to those folders. With Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box, a single folder is synchronized.

The Cloud – Why do I want it?

With one of the aforementioned services running on your computer at all times, you do not need to manually create backups. You do not need to purchase any hardware, and your data is safe from fires, tornadoes, earthquakes, and any other house destroyer.

The Cloud – How much does it cost?

Google Drive – 5GB free, up to 16TB as a paid subscriber

SugarSync – 5GB free, up to 500GB as a paid subscriber

Dropbox – 2GB free, 1TB and up as a paid Business account

Box – 5GB free, up to 1TB as a paid Business account, unlimited as an Enterprise account

Is your data safe?

While this blog entry only covers the “drag ‘n drop” cloud services, there are others like Mozy and Carbonite which function much like an external hard drive – they can be configured to back up your entire computer. Whichever cloud storage you decide to go with, you won’t regret it when the next thunderstorm sends a lightning bolt surging through your power strip and into the sensitive electronics in your computer, when a tsunami sweeps your entire community away, or when you simply leave your laptop on top of your car before hurdling down the highway at speeds that defy the small amount of friction holding your laptop in place.