I’ve been asked by many of my senior friends – “Are cloud services easy-to-use and safe?” My simple answer is “Maybe.” Cloud computing IS easy-to-use, and CAN be safe if properly set up and secured with a strong password.
What is “Cloud Computing?:
Cloud Computing is really a company (like Apple, Microsoft, Google or others) that provides a free or inexpensive way to store your computer files at a remote location by using the Internet to send and receive your files. The company provides storage for your photos, music, videos, documents, and more. Some services provide backups of your most important data, or your entire computer or mobile device (like a smart phone or tablet.)
Do I need to use a cloud service?:
No, you can continue to use the built-in hard drive (or RAM storage) on your computer. But there are several good reasons to use cloud computing in addition. For example:
- Your computer or mobile device is stolen or lost with all your files on it. Cloud computing provides a way to restore your information.
- You want to have access to your files from more than one computer or mobile device. For instance you want to get a copy of last years tax return and you are at your winter home, or vacation home and want to retrieve it from your computer “back home.”
- You and your spouse want to share the same photos, music and video collections – and important personal information.
Is cloud computing hard to set-up and use?:
No, most services provide easy step-by-step setup from your web browser or with a dedicated “App” on your mobile device(s). Set-up, which includes securing the information with a good strong password, usually defined as seven or more random letters (mix upper and lower case), numbers and symbols (like !@#$%^& etc.) that you immediately write down and file in a secure place like a lockbox. After you finish setting-up the cloud service you will see an icon for the service in the same location as your hard drive on your computer. On mobile devices you will manage your files using the services’ app, or in the “share” menu of app like Microsoft Word, Excel, and others.
Is it expensive?:
Most cloud computing services offer a small amount of storage for free. If you need a larger amount of storage then expect to pay a small annual or monthly fee. If you store anything outside of small files – like word processing documents or spread sheets – you will need to invest in a medium size or larger amount of storage space. Based on my storage needs – I store a lot of music, photos, videos, and documents – my cloud storage needs to be about 200 GB of storage – and I pay $1.99 per month for the security and peace-of-mind of having a second place to store, share and back up my important files.
What company should I use?:
Certainly all the “name brands” are good, safe, easy-to-use and cost effective. Apple (iCloud), Microsoft (OneDrive), Google (My Drive) are all good choices. Others like Dropbox have been around for several years and is a good choice.
The “Bottom Line”:
Cloud computing is a good way to provide additional storage for all your important computer files. My only hesitantcy with seniors is password use and management. I’ve taught computer services for many years as a consultant and as a staff member at Barnes & Noble. The number one problem with seniors is that they do not write down and have easy access to user names and passwords. I don’t mean to scold – I’m almost 70 (next May) and if I didn’t write passwords down – or use a software app (like 1Password) I would be in serious trouble.