If you’re confused by the term “cloud computing” and don’t know what it means to have your computers and mobile devices syncing to a cloud service, you’re not alone.
The Oxford Dictionary defines the word cloud as “a state or cause of gloom, suspicion, trouble, or worry.” We’re not discussing this type of cloud. Yet for many of us, this is exactly how we feel when someone casually says, “I use my cloud service to sync up the information on all my devices. It’s easy!”
To which you reply, “Bartender! Another round!”
Let’s get rid of the gloom and shed some light on the clouds, by discussing both the cloud and cloud synchronization.
Think of a cloud as a ginormous storage unit on the Internet that stores stuff. And by stuff, I mean information like documents and photos, not that Hawaiian shirt from your honeymoon.
Parts of the storage unit are open to anyone on the Internet. An example of this is eHow. If you’re on the Internet, you can get into their part of the “storage unit” by just typing in their web address.
Others areas of the storage unit are private and for your use only. An example of this is Apple iCloud. If you sign up for their service, you can privately store email, contacts, photos, documents and more. In order to get into these private areas you need a password.
So that’s a cloud, but what is cloud synchronization?
In it’s purest sense, cloud synchronization is like a game of Follow the Leader. Remember that game? One person is the leader and everyone else has to follow her around mimicking her actions. The leader decides what parts of the body are included in the game. She may include hands, arms, legs and feet, but not expect you to mimic eye blinking and breathing patterns.
Cloud synchronization is similar. The players in the game are the computers, mobile phones or tablets you want to sync to the cloud. The rules of the game are the specific programs or information you want to sync. The leader is whichever “player in the game” you’re using at that moment. For example, if you’re using your phone at that moment, that’s the leader.
Let’s say you assign your phone and home computer to sync to the cloud. You specify your email, contacts and calendar to be the information included in the sync.
If you change a contact on your phone, that information goes to your private storage unit in the cloud, which sends a message to your computer at home to follow the leader. Magically, your computer at home updates that contact information.
Sounds perfect, right? Almost. Sometimes Internet goblins wreak havoc on the system. You can swear you followed all the rules, but somehow your mobile phone and computer do not have the same contact information. What can I say? Nothing is perfect and that part is out of our control.
So, What Is in Our Control?
Choose a cloud service and sign up. Decide which devices (e.g. computers, phones, tablets) play Follow the Leader. Connect each of them to your cloud service, then choose which information will be part of the game.
Some excellent cloud services out there are Google Drive, Dropbox, Apple iCloud and Amazon EC2. Some of these services are free, some have a monthly fee. All of them have very simple instructions on how to get your devices connected to their cloud service.
Now that we’ve lifted the cloud off of your cloud, get out there and sync your devices. Remember, “It’s easy!” 😉
Image credit: Jonathan Grossman