When using many different services online, our digital lives quickly spread across many places. We have photos on our computer, on our phones, some on Facebook, and others on Flickr or Instagram. Documents frequently come as attachments to email, which may be in your email application or in the cloud on a computer run by Google or Microsoft. And don’t even ask where our music is. Encouraged by cloud services like Amazon and iTunes, many of us have no earthly idea.
Our digital sprawl is getting worse over time as we add devices and try out new services. One of the things that could help is using cloud storage to consolidate all of our digital stuff. The good news, there are many cloud storage options out there and some of them are a great deal. The bad news, it’s an incredible hassle to keep track of all the solutions for sharing and syncing stuff across devices. I bet a lot of people are managing multiple services because they are trying to stay within “freemium” limits—that is, to stay under the threshold of being charged for any one of the services.
Here are my recommendations for how to use cloud storage to protect and organize your ever-growing digital life.
Archiving Emails: Some people obsessively delete email. I, on the other hand, am an email preserver – I like to have an archive going back as far as possible. But I eventually hit the 25 GB limit frequently used by email providers. I did not want to pay for online backup services or have my email at the mercy of my hard drive, which could fail, so I put it on a free, unlimited online backup service, which stores the email in .eml format. From that service, I can download the .eml files whenever I want. Now I have a secure, accessible and searchable archive for my email. If I switch providers, I still have copies of all my mail.
Archiving Photos and Video: A photo or video archive can become huge quickly. Consolidating all the pictures I’ve taken, scanned, and received in one place gives me assurance that valuable memories are safely stored. That way when I get around to creating that digital multigenerational family album, or want to find video clips for my daughter’s graduation, I know it’s all in one place.
Large File Transfer: When I want to send a large file to someone, email is not the best way to do it. Many email providers limit attachments to 10 MB or straight up fail to deliver large files. There are now many free services that let you move up to 2 GB at once.
Shared Repository: At times when I share information with a large group of people, I have the option to put data in a shared repository, which essentially works like a large file system in the cloud. This allows for two-way file transfers, just like a shared drive at your office – only more reliable.
Local Drive Backup: I ensure a complete copy of my laptop — apps, documents, files and all — exists somewhere other than my house. If something happens to my laptop, or I get a new one, I’ll have everything ready to restore. Now that there are free, unlimited online backup services available, why would I take the risk of not doing it?
Taking the cloud storage approach has several benefits.
Cloud storage is an insurance policy against hardware failure. Most people already back up their data to an external hard drive at home. But if something happens to your home, it could take out your computer and your external drive in one fell swoop. The cloud is comprised of millions of pieces of hardware and the best cloud services take full advantage of this.
As I’ll explain in a future blog,
Technology services come and go. At some point, it will be time to replace your hardware, switch photo storage and sharing sites, or change broadband providers, but you’ll still want organized access to your files. By taking advantage of unlimited cloud storage, you’ll know where your digital stuff is, no matter what.