The Wonders Of Cloud Storage
If you heard someone say “I have all my stuff on the cloud” 15 years ago it would have sounded like total nonsense. Today the most common use of the word “cloud” has nothing to do with the weather. Today the “cloud” is a safe, convenient place to store our most important data much like a wall safe is a place to store our most precious valuables.
There are tons of cloud storage systems out there – Google Drive, Amazon Cloud, OneDrive, Dropbox, etc. In this chapter, I’m going to focus on two of the most popular and useful services out there – Google Drive and Dropbox.
In the old days, the best ways to transfer files to a remote network were with email or a flash drive. I remember when FTP was another painful option – ugh! Now you can have access to all your most important files from anywhere in the world with a browser and an Internet connection. Simply log into your favorite service and you have an intuitive interface designed to allow you to access, upload, and download your files from anywhere.
Not only are Google Drive and Dropbox convenient ways to store and backup files they also have rich feature sets of collaboration tools. These tools allow you to create and edit documents on the fly and share your work in an instant with anyone with an email address. Many people have used the Google suite of online tools to run entire small businesses on.
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Tech Skills For The “Home IT Guru”
The King of Cloud Storage – Google Drive
Let’s start with Google Drive – yes that’s right – Big Brother. Back in the old days (Before Google) you had to go to school to learn something and you had to get a degree to prove you learned it. Now you can learn as much as you want about anything quickly and easily by simply “Googling” it. Of course, a Google education may not count for much in the job market but you’ll find most employed professionals rely on Google as if their careers depend on it.
If you have a Google account you have Google Drive. The instant your Google account is created and verified you have instant access to an all-encompassing suite of tools most people don’t even know exists. Those who know about them use them to enrich their lives daily. Go ahead and open a Chrome browser, sign in to your Google account, click on the weird little dots in the upper right-hand corner and click on “More” and then “Even more from Google.” Take a quick peek at all the wonderful tools you have at your disposal.
To get to your Google Drive, log onto your Google account, click on this icon, or enter drive.google.com into Google Chrome. Google starts you off with 15GB for free. For $1.99 a month you can increase that to 100GB. For $9.95 a month you get an entire Terrabyte (1,024 GB) of storage and easy access to your most important files from almost anywhere in the world.
Google offers 15GB of free storage space. As of this writing that’s the most storage space any of the most popular cloud storage services offer for free. That’s not bad when you consider the first 1GB hard drive was the size of a refrigerator and cost about $40,000!
Once you’re in Google Drive the big “New” button jumps out at you. This is where you can create new folders, files, and documents to add to your Drive. Clicking on “New” and then “More” reveals the many other document types you can create with Google Drive. Taking it one step further and clicking on “Connect More Apps” shows the many applications you can integrate with your Google Drive.
From here it gets very intuitive. You can create a new folder just like you would in Windows. You can upload individual files and entire folders from your hard drive. To create a Microsoft Word compatible (.docx) document click on Google Docs and a Microsoft Word-like interface opens. Name your document and close the tab. You’ll see the document has auto-saved itself in whatever folder you’re in. The lack of a “Save” button takes some getting used to.
To upload a file to your Google Drive:
- Click on “File upload.”
- Select a file.
- Click on “Open.”
- Your upload status is displayed.
- Your file new file appears.
If you’re a Microsoft Word user you’ll find it easier to convert from Microsoft Word format to Google Docs format by checking “Convert uploaded file to Google Doc editor format.”
- Click on the gear icon in the upper right corner and select “Settings.”
- Check “Convert uploaded files to Google Docs editor format.”
- Click on “Done.”
Managing files is also extremely intuitive with Google Drive:
- Right-click on any empty space and select “New folder” or click on the “New” button.
- Name your folder.
- Click create.
The Google Drive web interface allows for easy dragging and dropping of files and folders:
Right-clicking on objects offers a wide variety of context-sensitive options. Right-clicking on a file or folder offers the options to:
- Open it with a specific application such as Google’s Music Player.
- Share it with others.
- Allow others to add files to your folder.
- Move it to another location.
- Create a bookmark (Star) for a frequently accessed item.
- Rename it.
- Color code it.
- Open a quick view of all the files and folders in a folder.
- Download it.
- Delete it.
Sharing Google Drive Files And Folders
One of the most convenient features of Google Drive is the ability to share files and folders. With a few mouse clicks, you can provide your contacts with instant access to any file or folder you want by simply entering their email address and hitting “send.” The recipient will receive an email message with a link to your files and folders with the access permissions you specify.
- Select a file or folder you want to share and click on one of the Share buttons.
- Enter the email addresses of the contacts you want to share your files or folders with.
- Specify what access you want them to have to your files and folders.
- Add a message or greeting.
- Hit send to send them an email containing the link you just created.
- If you’re not using email you can use the “Get a shareable link” button to copy a link to be used on other media. The shareable link button will open a dialog you can use to control access permissions.
- Your contact will receive the link in their inbox and will be able to view, edit, or comment on it according to the permissions you give them!
If you have a lot of data stored on your Google drive you’ll appreciate the search features it provides to do easy and accurate searches of all your files and folders in seconds. To search your Google Drive for files click on “Search Drive” at the top of your screen.
- Do a simplified search of your drive by file type or click on “More search tools” to do a more advanced search as shown below.
- In this search, I’m looking for a spreadsheet owned by me which is in a folder located in My Drive (JJ) that was created yesterday and has the word “awesome” in the title.
- The results of my search.
Moving files from folder to folder is quick and easy.
- Simply right-click on a file and select “Move to.”
- Select the folder you want to move the file to
- Click “Move Here.”
If sharing your file folders with the world makes you nervous you can prevent specific files from being shared and downloaded even if they’re in a folder you’ve shared.
- Right-click on “Share” like we did before and select “Advanced.”
- At the bottom of the next window check “Prevent editors from changing access and adding new people.” And “Disable options to download, print and copy for commenters and viewers.”
- Click on “Save changes.”
This prevents others from changing access to files you want to protect and disabling the ability for them to copy or download your files. Awesome!
Google Drive’s Little Brother – Dropbox
As great as Google Drive is it does have one minor shortcoming. If you have the Backup and Sync app installed on multiple computers the synchronization from your computers to Google Drive and from Google Drive to your computers happens in intervals. It’s not instantaneous. As a result, if are constantly updating, uploading, and downloading a specific file from multiple machines can sometimes lead to confusing results.
Dropbox is a very Google Drive-like tool that takes care of this. The synchronization from machine to machine is almost instantaneous. This makes it great for live collaboration and keeping track of multiple versions of the same file. Dropbox is also taking steps to up its game with a new desktop version that has collaboration tools that rival Google.
If the 2GB free account isn’t enough storage space for you Dropbox offers several plans for teams and individuals. There are also ways to get more free space which I’ll cover later.
To install Dropbox on your computer you’ll need to create a Dropbox account and download and install a little file that makes Windows Explorer work with Dropbox. Go to dropbox.com/basic to get started.
- Create a Dropbox account.
- Download and install the program.
- If the installer doesn’t run automatically you may need to run it manually.
- Once the installation is complete you can find the Dropbox app on the taskbar by the clock. If you can see it try clicking on the up arrow to find it. Once the icon is no longer greyed out it’s ready to use. Click on the Dropbox icon to launch “Preferences” as shown below.
- Click on the “General” tab.
- Check the box that says “Open the desktop app when starting Dropbox” for the best experience.
- Hit “Apply.”
- Go to the “Sync” tab to look at some important options.
- If you want to move your Dropbox folder to another drive on your computer that has more space do that by clicking on “Move…”
- Click on “Selective Sync.”
- Use this list to select which folders on the Dropbox cloud you want to be synced up with your computer. This is a nice option to prevent certain folders from appearing on all your computers. These settings may be different on each computer.
- Click “Update” to save your changes.
From here on out Dropbox functionality is just like Google drive. You can do most of the same things in a slightly different-looking interface.
You can drag and drop or copy and paste to your Dropbox folder just like you can with Google Drive.
The big difference is moving or copying files and folders to your Dropbox Folder results in almost immediate synchronization with Dropbox and any other devices you have Dropbox installed on (Depending on the Selective Sync settings mentioned above.)
The same options for files and folders in Google Drive are available in Dropbox by clicking on the three dots (…) that appear when you hover your mouse over an object.
For the sake of brevity, I won’t be covering the steps involved with each option all over again here. You get the idea. Some of these options require an upgrade to Dropbox Plus. The choice is yours.
Instead of positioning themselves as competition with Google Drive, they chose to integrate with it and other products such as Microsoft Office. Dropbox is not a one-stop shop for everything you need. It’s just another tool in your digital toolbox.
The one downside to Dropbox is the small amount of initial free space (2 GB) they provide. Don’t let that discourage you. As you explore Dropbox you’ll be given opportunities to increase your free space as you increase your functionality with things like the Dropbox phone app and referrals. I currently have over 5GB of free space and it wasn’t hard at all.
Here’s an easy way to refer Dropbox and get free space for your friends and yourself:
- Click on the little button in the upper right-hand corner and select “Settings.”
- Click on “Plan.”
- Click on “Invite a friend.”
- Invite friends using individual email addresses, your Gmail contacts list, create a link or share an invitation on Facebook.
Both you and your friends will get extra space for using your referral links. If you’d like to use my referral link to get started with Dropbox here it is: WiFi Guy