How-To

5 Ways the Cloud Can Make Your Life Much Easier

CeBIT 2013 Technology Trade Fair
Sean Gallup—Getty Images A visitor tries out a tablet computer next to a cloud computing and technology symbol at the Deutsche Telekom stand at the 2013 CeBIT technology trade fair on March 5, 2013 in Hanover, Germany.

Here are a few tips to help get your head in the cloud

Tired of migrating files between your phone, tablet and laptop? Relief awaits you in the cloud, that massive online storage locker for documents, music, pictures or any other item that you might want to spring from the solitary confinement of a single device.

Migrating to the cloud requires a little dragging, dropping and digital housekeeping, but the real payoff comes after the data dump, when users are freer to rethink the way they store and share data. Here are a few tips to help get started:

Build photo albums together. Swapping photos over the cloud is a breeze, but one easily neglected feature is a checkbox that authorizes multiple users to contribute to a single photo album. Microsoft’s Picture Hub collates all your photos automatically and shows you your friends if they make them public. On Apple devices, just make sure to switch on “iCloud Photo Sharing” under settings. For Google’s Picasa users, check off, “Let people I share with contribute photos.” Then create a new album and invite friends and family to contribute over email. That next family vacation album could look more like a Rashomon-style portrait of the same trip, but from different perspectives.

Expand your music library. Offload songs from your mobile device onto the cloud, and you can easily double or triple the size of your music collection. Google Music recently expanded the storage limit on its free, cloud-based music service to 50,000 songs. Amazon Music offers a whopping 250,000 song storage limit, but at an annual subscription of $24.99 a year. For the same price, Apple offers storage for 25,000 songs, but sweetens the deal with an ad-free subscription iTunes Radio. In any case, they all offer an alternative to triaging your favorite songs within the cramped confines of your mobile device.

Pimp your notes. If you have notes, web clippings and photos scattered across your mobile devices, there are a number of apps that can help wrangle them into a single notepad on the cloud. Free apps such as Evernote and Microsoft’s OneNote offer a multimedia-friendly canvas for note taking. Drag and drop photos alongside text or use the “web clipping” app to highlight sections of interest on a webpage and immediately transport it into a notepad.

Create living documents. There are two ways to get a lot of eyes on a single document: Email it as an attachment or upload it to the cloud and hit “share.” Sharing wins hands down for any document that requires more than one round of edits or feedback from a diffuse team. The “share” button comes standard on every cloud-based file storage system, whether it’s Google Drive, Microsoft’s OneDrive or Dropbox. Invitees can then modify the same document at the same time. Think of the “share” button as an invitation to an online brainstorm that has the potential to replace in-person meetings and interminable email chains.

One view of the cloud. Maybe you’ve overextended yourself on the cloud, sharing some files over Google Drive, others over Dropbox and still more files over Microsoft OneNote. Apps like Otixo and Primadesk give a bird’s eye view of every file across the cloud. Just connect each cloud drive to the app, and it will display them as nested folders in a single window, where you can drag and drop files across cloud service providers.

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