Tech Talk: Cloud Computing vs. External Hard Drives

Next week, Apple is supposed to announce plans for what it's calling iCloud. Based on everything that I've read, iCloud is going to be a replacement for MobileMe, it's online synch service that allows you to share your email, contacts and calendars online. It's also supposed to be something of an online "locker" for all things related to iTunes.

Both Amazon and Google have similar cloud computing options for your digital media, as well as other kinds of cloud computing options. For example, you can save your documents, spread sheets, photos, even calendars on Google's servers instead of on your computer. 

This recently revived the debate online about the need/want for cloud computing.

Cloud computing is nothing new. You save or back-up documents that you want to an online hard drive. That way you can go to any computer, anywhere in the world, access those documents and save them online again if you wish or print them off or whatever. Cloud computing frees you from having to carry around external hard drives (which your dog can eat) or thumb drives (which can get lost in the cushions of the couch).

While cloud computing certainly has its advantages, it wasn't until recently that its true potential started to really show. The ability to save your entire digital media library (my iTunes, for example, has over 400 gigs worth of stuff) in the cloud certainly has its own set of perks. No longer will have to go home to listen to my favorite song whenever I discover that it's not on my iPod.

It also acts as an insurance for backing up your files. External hard drives can get knocked around and damaged. Having your files stored in the cloud means you don't have to worry about your dog deciding that it wants to mark your hard drive as its territory.

But, if you really must access a particular file that's stored in your cloud, or if you really must listen to "The Boys Are Back In Town" and your internet is spotty...or if the internet is down...or if you get an error message when you try to log in...you'll be out of luck.

That's why I'd recommend, at this time anyway, that if you're using a cloud computing service, to not be completely reliant on it. Use it as an insurance. Use it as a secondary hard drive. But always make sure you have a second or third place on had to access those files that you can't live without.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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