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20130802 Cloud-TechnologyIn the past few years, cloud technologies have become extremely popular for business users; however, they also offer many opportunities for personal users. When people mention “the cloud,” they are referring to storage, services, and software applications that are hosted on the Internet instead of on a local computer, tablet or smart phone.

Most people use the cloud and don’t even realize it. For example, common email services, such as Gmail and Yahoo! Mail provide cloud storage for emails and attachments. Social media sites, such as Facebook, offer message boards, games, media storage, and other cloud services.

The cloud is convenient because it can be accessed from any location and with any device that has Internet access. For example, you can view the same email from your computer at work, your laptop at home, or your smart phone at the beach.

Cloud services that focus primarily on storage have become very popular in recent years. For example, Dropbox allows you to store files, pictures, music, and videos on the Internet so that you do not have to use USB drives or other media to transfer files between computers or other devices. Each of your devices can have a Dropbox folder, and when the contents are modified through one device, the folders show the updated files on your other devices.

The cloud also offers backup storage to protect your files in case your computer or mobile device is damaged or lost. One popular service is Mozy, which will automatically create a backup of your pictures, music, videos, and text documents on a scheduled basis. This service is a convenient protection against data loss.

Google Drive is another popular cloud storage option that also offers a useful service called Google Docs. Google Docs provides cloud-based software, which you can use to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Files that are created with Google Docs can then be stored in Google Drive with your other files.

Many cloud services offer a free account for individuals. For example, Google Drive provides 15 GB of free storage for personal use. Most cloud providers offer monthly subscriptions that include additional storage space, enhanced services, and extra features, such as mobile apps.

If you choose to use a cloud service, it is very important that you research the available options and select a reputable site. You should take time to read the security and privacy policies so that you can be sure your data is protected from hackers and will not be shared with third parties. In addition, you should never upload bank account numbers, social security numbers, or other sensitive data to the cloud.

With the growth in cloud technologies, it will be interesting to see what new services become available in the near future.

Francisco Martinez III is a Computer and Information Technologies student at South Texas College.

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