If you haven’t made the move to the cloud yet, you might want to start loading up your digital U-Haul and get a head start. We are about to see a massive shift from CDs, hard drives, DVDs, and Microsoft Office to cloud services like Google Docs, Dropbox, Netflix, and Spotify.
A lot of people are already using these services, but it seems like the non-techies aren’t quite there yet. To help you on your journey to the cloud, here is a little insight to get you moving in the right direction.
Docs & Storage: Google
Why Google? They offer some of the best services at the best prices (all free depending on how much storage you need), many of which people aren’t even aware of. While I love supporting the little guys, it’s hard to beat Google’s offerings. Plus, it’s easier when everything is in one place under one account. Add if you need more storage, for $5 a year you get 20GB of storage.
Here’s the Google run-down:
Google Docs – Google Docs is really powerful. It’s not just for creating documents like Word or Excel – it’s also storage. You can upload pretty much any file you want to Google Docs, from MP3s to picture files like JPGs. The sharing and real-time editing capabilities for documents or spreadsheets by multiple users is a huge bonus, too. I use Google Docs with many of my clients to share information without dealing with so many emails. You can actually watch other users typing in real-time if you are sharing a document, which is pretty cool. One of my clients uploaded dozens of photos for use on their website. I was able to download these quickly as a ZIP folder, which was much easier than multiple emails with two or three photos in each.
Google Play – Google Play is Google’s stab at competing with iTunes. Personally, I prefer the Google Play interface because it’s easier to launch than iTunes and it uses the cloud versus stored MP3s (though Spotify is even better). You can upload your old MP3s and listen online or on your phone.
Google+ and Picasa – Move your photos online to Google+ using Picasa. You can edit photos, share, and more. One of my favorite features is a sync option from my phone to Google+. Every time I take a photo with my phone, it automatically uploads to my Google+ account, creating a back-up of my photos. They are visible only to me unless I share them.
YouTube – Store all of your videos on YouTube. Since Google took it over, there have been some great improvements to the interface, too.
This is only a tiny portion of Google’s services. Google is going to be a dominating force when it comes to the cloud, and I’m afraid companies like Dropbox and Basecamp are going to have a hard time keeping up.
Create a Google account if you don’t already have one (Gmail is a Google account).
I did a post about Spotify a while back when it finally launched in the U.S. I pretty much only use Spotify for music now, except for those rare recordings that aren’t in their database or for artists like the Beatles who are fighting the digital shift.
Spotify is an on-demand service that allows you to listen to any artist in their database for $10 a month. It’s definitely worth it if you listen to music on a regular basis. Spotify has the feel of iTunes, but the music is stored on the cloud and not on your computer. Millions of songs are available, something that is basically impossible without a cloud service.
It’s time to pawn those old CDs and iPods and try listening to music strictly through the cloud. Even if Spotify isn’t your thing, take a look at Google Play, Amazon Cloud Player, and MOG. They all offer similar options, but Spotify seems to provide more bang for the buck.
I love Dropbox, even though I’ve recently shifted to using Google Docs for most of my storage. Dropbox is an online file storage service that also syncs with your computer and offers sharing capabilities. Dropbox’s computer sync feature is great, giving you access to files offline, too. One of the best features is the public folder, allowing you to share links to large files without the end user needing an account. It’s much easier to share big files this way.
I use Dropbox alongside Google Docs, simply because Dropbox has a few features that Google Docs doesn’t have, such as the direct public file link and computer sync options.
While this is just starting to take effect, something I can’t wait for is the shift from cable TV as we know it to Internet-based TV. I am really expecting this to take off in the next several years, especially as we get more mobile. Right now, I use the inexpensive Roku box to stream Netflix and various other Internet-based networks, or I hook-up the computer to the TV to stream shows that aren’t accessible on the Roku. While Roku is great, it’s not perfect.
Whoever connects these two worlds in the best way will change the entire TV industry, and it’s just around the corner. DVDs will be a thing of the past, because it will all be on-demand online, much like we’ve seen in the music industry. We’re already seeing devices for this, it’s just a matter of flawlessly connecting the two worlds and getting people to adopt the shift.
The hardest part about the cloud shift is letting go of *ownership*. Getting rid of CDs, for example, is hard, not only because of the monetary investment, but also because of the emotional attachment. For me, it has been great to free up some space, both mentally and physically, though. When you have less stuff, both on your computer and in your closet, it frees up space for new growth and opportunities. Start loading up your digital U-Haul and give it a shot. You can always jump on Ebay if you really need to buy and spin that old MC Hammer CD one last time.