The Cloud is like a comfortable chair — it gets better the more you use it

The Cloud (with the capital C intended) means different things to different people. When we talk about it around these parts, we generally mean the servers and application machines that companies like Google or Amazon have on the Internet, and the services attached to them that we all use every day.

We're big proponents of the Cloud here, and a big reason for it is that we're Android users. Google is, above all other things, a cloud platform and services company. Search, Gmail, Google Drive and their application platform is the driving force behind all their products even if it's not the major source of their income. They have to provide services worth using, so we will use them and see their advertisements. Android ties into these services and Google's Cloud Platform in a big way, and by making their services available to folks on other platforms, Google is covering as many bases as they can. 

But Google, and all Cloud service companies, need users in numbers to be successful. Their offerings need to be compelling enough to get us to give up our information to use them and make them better, and as always a good look at the services and features the people around you use every day is always enlightening. We've each taken a turn to explain how we use the Cloud — using Google's Drive document editor, a collaborative cloud service itself — and we invite you to use the comments to share how you use it as well. Hit the break and have a read.

Gimme two steps

Phil Nickinson

I’m kind of all over the place, but here’s my basic workflow for when I get a new device. This is how I’m able to stay relatively sane on so many devices:

  • Sign into my personal Google account. (Using Google’s two-step authentication, of course.)
  • Sign into my work Google account. (Again, two-step. Because I’m worth it.)
  • Install and sign into Dropbox. (Hello, two-step authentication. Again.)
  • Install 1Password Reader, connect to Dropbox.
  • Install Google Voice for phone number and text messages.
  • Make sure Android Device Manager is up and running so I can find/wipe the phone if necessary.

Those are my basic first steps. After that it’s reloading my usual suite of apps — again, all tucked away in Google Play’s cloud, right? So it’s pretty quick and easy. Contacts and e-mail and text messages are all handled by Google, so it’s just a matter of minutes before I’ve got my life back.

Jerry Hildenbrand

I have my own backup server here on my home network that both my wife and I use for storage and daily backups of our user files. I’ve got things setup to mount seamlessly at login, so it’s just like any other folder as far as the user is concerned. If you have the equipment and time, this is something I really recommend you try.

But I do use the cloud daily. I use Google Play Music All Access for my music collection. Netflix, Amazon VoD, Xfinity and Google Play Movies and TV provide my video services, and for documents and files I’ll need to share with others I use Dropbox and Google Drive. Of course, as an Android user my contacts, calendar and mail are all in Google’s cloud as well.

For folks with a solid and unlimited data connection, there really is no better way.


Alex Dobie

I’ve reviewed enough phones to have stacked up 80 gigabytes of free Dropbox space until the end of time, and aside from Gmail that’s my main cloud service. On Android Central (and Mobile Nations in general) we use Dropbox to handle just about anything shared across the team, whether it’s stock images (B-roll) or system dumps from the latest phones. It’s also a really easy way of getting images back from people in the field, at live events and shows.

I’m also a big Google Drive user, but that’s really only for documents, rather than general cloud storage. Right now Drive doesn’t do anything for me that Dropbox doesn’t, with the exception of Docs, which I can get to through the web anyway.

I’ve also just signed up to Google Play Music All Access, which was lit up in the UK last week. Getting All Access has pretty much solidified my move away from iTunes. I’d previously kept an iTunes library as a kind of backup, and siphoned that over to Play Music using the Music Manager. With Google’s subscription service I don’t ever have to think about juggling around MP3s, in the same way that I don’t have to think about other kinds of files when using Dropbox -- everything is just there. It’s a great example the cloud working as it should.

Andrew Martonik

Rather than go with a “personal cloud” solution, I’ve entrusted everything that’s important to a 50GB Dropbox account (and yes, it all fits in just that much space). After being burned plenty of times with local storage on my computers, I don’t put anything on my computer, phone or tablet’s internal storage that I wouldn’t be okay losing completely. A single “backup” isn’t actually a backup at all.

The benefit of having everything in Dropbox on the mobile side is that my whole host of pictures, music and documents are all accessible on my phone if I need to get at them in a pinch. For more normal and specialized usage, I prefer to keep documents in Google Drive, my music collection in Google Play Music (along with an All Access subscription), with pictures backed up twice to both Dropbox and Google+.

Naturally, Google handles my email, calendar, contacts, texts and calls which makes signing into new devices a snap. For general security and wiping of devices remotely, I use two-step authentication and one-time passwords for both my Google and Dropbox accounts.

I guess you could say I’m “all-in” with the cloud, but I don’t feel any anxiety about not having control over where my data is. These systems provide so many features and functionality, with plenty of opportunities to keep things as secure and safe as you want, that I see it as a complete win-win situation.

Google Drive

Sean Brunett

 I use the cloud in a number of ways and am a big proponent in cloud services. My Google account backs up my contacts, calendar and email, as others on here have noted. I’ve had to troubleshoot so many phones that don’t use the cloud to backup contacts and it’s a huge pain, so I’m glad Android has had that for so long. I upload all of my documents to Google Drive so I don’t have to worry about my hard drives failing and also use Dropbox as much as I can.

I’m an avid user of cloud services for my content. I upload my music library to both Google Play Music and Amazon Cloud Drive. I love being able to purchase music from any device and have it added automatically to my cloud library. (Though, I have been a satisfied subscriber to Google Play Music All Access since the announcement.) I use both Amazon Instant Video and Google Play Movies and TV, though I am waiting desperately for Amazon to make an official Android app. I’d be much more willing to purchase content from Amazon if they had an official app and made it Chromecast-compatible :). My photos are all uploaded to the cloud, spread out across a number of services. Google+ gets most of my photos and all of the backups from my Android devices, Facebook gets a lot and my official website and Flickr get some as well.

Apart from Gmail, Google Voice may be my most used Google product. I love having my phone number managed from my Google account, allowing me to text from any device with an Internet connection. Texting from the computer has become so natural to me that texting from my phone feels a bit odd. All texts, voicemails and calls are backed up automatically and I never have to worry about losing the number no matter which carrier or phone I am on (unless it’s shut down of course).

I’ve set-up my life so that I can change computers or devices and not miss a beat. Everything is accessible from a web browser, so I often use a variety of devices without having to go through the pains of transferring content. The cloud is becoming so robust that it’s feasible to have your data all backed up to the cloud. Years ago, this wasn’t the case so it’s pretty exciting times that we live in. I believe that the cloud will only improve and allow us to live further without fear of losing data.

Michelle Haag

I'm sure I use the cloud in more ways than I realize, but two big applications stick out to me right away that I use on a daily basis, multiple times per day. First, I'm a big fan of Dropbox. I tried out a few other services and just never felt super comfortable with them, so I guess I just like to use what I'm comfortable with. I back up photos and some documents to Dropbox as well as things I need to access fairly often from different computers/devices, for example Mobile Nations watermarks. Chris and I also have a shared Dropbox folder so we can easily send non-time sensitive videos and files to each other, which is pretty handy.

Second, I am also a big Evernote user. Taking notes during a call, clipping recipes from the internet, storing frequently used information, logging workouts at the gym, and saving inspiration for my next tattoo are all common things I use Evernote for. And I love that I can easily email a note from within the app, either to distribute meeting notes to coworkers or share that yummy Blueberry Croissant Puff recipe with a friend. I'm sure I've barely scratched the surface of what Evernote can do, but I'm happy with the ways I have found use for it.


Casey Rendon

One of the biggest milestones for my cloud usage was when I stopped paying for cable television. Once Netflix, Hulu, network and cable websites, and iTunes (pre-Google Play days) became robust enough that I could get virtually all the content I wanted online, I no longer had to pay that monthly cable bill. Fast forward to today, and there are even more choices — notably great selections from Google Play and Amazon — that make going cableless even easier.

Dropbox has become an important tool for sharing data between family and friends, as well as backing up all my Android devices while I sleep (thanks Titanium Backup). For larger and more long term storage, I use Box and Copy.

My productivity is all cloud based, too. From my many Google calendars, to my Springpad notes (which I also share), to Google Drive documents, everything syncs seamlessly between all my devices, and is available on almost any other device that has an internet connection.

When dealing with sensitive and/or private information, I make sure to use encryption — otherwise I store it locally on my 1.5 TB external hard drive. For passwords, I use KeePassDroid because it works and and is free, both in its Android form and computer forms. I also use encrypted Word documents for storing large amounts of text.


Reader comments

Ask the AC staff: How do we use the cloud?


I do believe the cloud is the future for many things. Bandwidth caps from service providers are the only thing slowing it down.

Agreed....if your service provider is Sprint or T-Mobile, the Cloud is very viable. However, if your provider is AT&T or Verizon, the Cloud is NOT even a consideration unless you are attached to wifi 90% or more of your day. It is a sad fact that those of you attached to AT&T or Verizon have to face. Also take into consideration that in the not too distant future....expect broadband providers to go to tiered plans so there goes our unlimited wifi as well.....

ATT and VZW greedy price gouging Data plans are what is going to hinder innovation for cloud usage. Not to mention phones now only come with 16 gb max with No SD cards which force people to stream everything. This is another reason why samsung is so big.

Unless someone develops a way to compress data back and forth to minimize data usage, it is going to render streaming everything useless.

As an artist that works on files in different locations with different versions of CS, the cloud is an absolute life saver.
Very interesting to see how you guys do things. I also use both Keep (personal) and Evernote (work) and couldn't live without them.

**(almost)In before the data cap/sd card folks. I use the cloud all of the time and almost NEVER via mobile data. That's how widespread WiFi is in civilization. Mobile data only in a pinch. Of couse, YMMV.

First off, and I know that this is a bit far fetched, but you could lose personal data faster that way. All it takes is one bad hotspot and you could be toast. Not to mention it is a bit of a PITA to turn wifi off and on (I am a bit old school with that thinking, I know. It isnt that big of a battery drain anymore)

I go the other way around. Mostly mobile data unless I know the network or I hit a dead zone. Thankfully I have unlimited data and great LTE where I am.

I called the police because some guy was driving up and down my street for an hour parking in front of houses for 15 minutes at a time at 1 am, turns out he was using a laptop to try and get in over people's wifi networks to get into computers.

Casey, what do you do about live sporting events? Most of my friends and I see that as our limiting factor of moving off cable tv. Being a hockey fan makes it hard to cut the cord.

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I thought game center was only out of market games, so no luck for the home team games.

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I love the cloud use google musc for me and my fiance to get our music, google apps account for work with drive and all cloud stuff, subscribe to bitcasa for unlimited uploads including using as a nas server type service to stream my media anywhere and use as local drive on pc i love it

Office 365 with Skydrive is the bomb for document creation. I'd love to ditch it for Drive and Docs, but the legal industry requires MS....for now.

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I guess you could call me a google fanboy. I'm about the google and the cloud.

Currently I Own a chrome book, android phone &tablet. That's it no window machines or macs. With that I'm 100% committed to the cloud. I keep things simple everything I own pictures, documents, contacts ect there all stored In one of googles services. With a strong password and of course 2step security. This makes setting up a new chromebook or a new phone or tablet a piece of cake. Sign into my google account and all my files are there

That's how I role it's not for everyone but it works for me.

I've been wondering what it would be like using ChromeOS full time. Is there any functionality you miss from an "offline" OS?

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it takes some getting use to the ability to have an internet connection at all times is key. I guess the only thing I miss is having software just work. there are solutions to what windows and macs can do but they require some hunting to find in the store. it can be done but trying to something on the fly that you weren't ready for. can be time consuming and frustrating.

I love the Cloud as well. But what I havent found that I think would be useful would be a good walk through on how to set up everything. I mean other than articles like this there really isnt anything out there to show you. Not that I have found at least. Sure, Google has a help section with info and dropbox has a setup tutorial, but nothing tieing it all together. I think if people could see how to set it up they would be more apt to use it.

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I am waiting for hangouts to handle gchat status, sms and google voice and hopefully that facebook chat heads function and i would be in love

Google Music is awesome. I love being able to access my entire music library plus all of the perks of All Access on any computer. It's the exemplification of simplicity. Google Keep is also very cool and Google+'s photo saving feature (I forget what it's called) has come in handy a few times.

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I have several cloud account including Drive, Dropbox and Box and icloud for my apple gear. While I do use it, it does not replace my external SD card. I have music on Google play music but also on my sd card. I just find that it is not responsive enough or I have to think too much to use it. I used them a lot more with my Nexus 4 but they just seem slow...I have unlimited data so that is not an issue..I just prefer local storage.

I do like Google Keep which I use on my phones and Nexus 7.

Google Apps for Biz and Google Voice are the cornerstones of my work/productivity systems (phone, text, email, calendar, contacts). Dropbox is my main file storage service. Evernote is my 2nd brain; I write it all down b/c I know I won't remember it. Two-factor authentication is on everything. The added security more than makes up for the minor (and it really is minor, the grand scheme of things) inconvenience.

Phil, is there any chance you could write a review for 1password. I really want to find a good way to manage passwords so I don't have to remember them all.

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Evernote is my daily use cloud storage. Without it I would be totally disorganized. I use it to take pictures of where I parked, temp store skype usernames when I meet new people, and store online purchase receipts using web clipper on my pc or my phone share function. I truly love Evernote.
Besides that I backup voicemail and sms with Voice, listen to music with Google Music Manager/All Access, and all other gapps. I back up documents with dropbox and g drive.
It gets messy with written media and visual media though. My books are on Google Books and Kindle App. My Magazines are on Google Magazine and Zinio. My comic books are spread out over Comixology, Graphically, Dark Horse and Google Books. Finally, my TV Shows and movies are on Amazon VOD, Google Play, and Ultraviolet. Ultraviolet is the best option right now (I view using Vudu and Flixter) because it is accessible everywhere. Google TV helps me to view Amazon VOD in more places now, but there really needs to be a native Android app for phones and tablets. Google Play needs a web play option.
My pictures are backed up with Picasa/Google+. I forgot about it until my phone was stolen back in November. I had pictures with the Cincinnati Bengals on it and thought I lost them till I saw my backup folder in my gallery once I got my new phone signed into gapps. You have no idea how relieved I was to open my gallery on a new phone and see all my pictures from my old phone magically appear.

Some of the things still missing from the cloud for me: Progress in most games. I know that is starting but frustrating to loose levels. My grocery app: ToMarket Pro. I used to use Grocery IQ which did a better job of that. I probably should switch back now that's it compatible with my device again. Handwrite Lite would like autobackup to cloud. Nova launcher has manual backups but those then have to be copied somewhere. That and setting up preferences in apps. I do run titanium backup backed up to Google drive so that will restore a lot of stuff.

I love the cloud, and I'd love to use dual authentication, but since I'm flashing updates to my ROM at least once a month, it doesn't really work, since I have to re-set up all my stuff. I have to disable then re-enabled the authenticator app. Or am I doing something wrong?

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Please help: I don't understand at all how to use cloud storage, or back up or even what app to use!
I only have a galaxy s2, no computer, I have a 16g sd card. I don't want to lose my photos. Any help, suggestions, recommendations & please...HOW?!!!

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