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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.