While the majority of today’s internet users have heard of “the cloud” and cloud computing, not all may be aware that it is more than just a business-focused resource. In fact, using the cloud can bring big benefits for businesses and individuals alike, and the technology offers a long list of helpful applications in both the professional world and in our routine daily lives. Many internet users might even be employing the cloud already without even realizing it.
So just what is the cloud? “The cloud” refers to technology that enables internet users to store an array of files and applications on external servers rather than on their own devices. And because these files and applications can be easily retrieved/used from nearly anywhere via the internet, it frees space on users’ computers and phones while letting them access their files from nearly any internet-connected device, all while eliminating the need to use (and haul around) bulky storage devices like external hard drives, CDs and DVDs.
Consider these seven ways that using the cloud can improve everyday life for the average consumer:
- Streaming music: Music-streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music Prime and a number of others allow users to listen to huge, cloud-based virtual catalogs containing millions of albums and tracks from the full spectrum of musical genres, all without having to buy or carry a single CD, record or any other type of music-storage media. Further, because all of these typically subscription-based services put so many artists and their works at users’ fingertips via their digital devices, they offer a great way for music lovers to discover new music. (Some even feature algorithms designed to expose users to music they are likely to enjoy.)
- Streaming video: In much the same way the music-streaming services noted above use the cloud to give users access to vast collections of albums and tracks, video-streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max let users access millions of movies and TV shows via the cloud. Also typically subscription-based, these services allow users to watch their choice of programming on their smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, computers and any other internet-connected viewing device, all from anywhere with an internet or cellular connection and without the need to store or transport external hard drives, DVDs, video tapes and the like.
- Photo storage and sharing: While proud parents have for generations placed photos of their children in their wallets and purses for easy access, the number of snapshots they could carry with them at all times was always limited by available pocket/purse space and how many of these personal mementos they wanted to lug around. Smartphones and laptops allowed for exponentially more photo files to be carried around at once, but these, too, were limited by available space, this time in the form of device memory. But with cloud-based photo-storage services like Snapfish, Google Photos, SmugMug and others, the number of photo and video files readily available to users at all times is nearly limitless, and they can all be retrieved on nearly any internet-connected viewing device with a few simple swipes and clicks. As a bonus, these services, which often boast limited amounts of free storage with more space available for a monthly fee, also make it a snap to share photo and video files with family members and friends.
- Backing up/storing important files: Computers and hard drives generally offer plenty of space for storing personal and work-related computer files but should they break down or otherwise lose functionality, their contents can be lost forever. Offering added piece of mind, online file-storage services like Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive and Apple iCloud allow users to store important files in the cloud so that they are still available even if a user’s file-storage hardware is broken or lost. And as an added benefit, these often subscription-based services enable users to retrieve these files from nearly anywhere at any time using an internet-connected device.
- Sending/sharing large files: For sending and sharing digital files, email has long provided an easy method to quickly deliver digital content to intended recipients, no matter where in the world they might be. But whether imposed on the sender’s or the receiver’s end, size limitations can present significant hurdles to emailing especially large files. By using cloud-based file-transfer services like WeTransfer, Send Anywhere and Hightail, many of which even offer some amounts of their file-transfer services for free, users can easily overcome limitations on file sizes while also preventing their own and their recipients’ email inboxes from becoming overloaded.
- Communications: As much of the world has faced lockdowns and restrictions on travel and gathering sizes during the pandemic, cloud-based video- and audioconferencing services like Zoom, Skype and Google Meet have become increasingly popular ways to communicate without actually having to get together in person. And because they’re cloud-based, many of these services allow users to set up and attend virtual meetings without having to store all the software used for the meetings on their own devices, which helps preserve memory and space on their computers, tablets and smartphones.
- Social networking: Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are hugely popular all over the world, and whether users realize it or not, they are harnessing the power of cloud computing when they send their posts, photos and videos out for all of their friends and connections to see, comment on and share. That is because, for both the users who post on these platforms and the friends who see the posts, none of the content is saved on their own devices but is instead stored on the outside servers known as the cloud.
Are you using the cloud more and more frequently in your connected life? If so, it might be time to consider upgrading your home’s internet speed to improve your online experience.
To learn more about our internet offerings, visit ftc.net, then call 888-218-5050 to upgrade your connection today! And for help determining what kind of internet speeds your connected home needs, check out our handy and easy-to-use internet speed calculator !