Simple, free way to begin using “Cloud” computing

By Sandra Clitter  

What the heck is ‘cloud computing’ and why do I care? If I decide I care about it, how can I take advantage of it?

First of all, there’s a good chance that you’re already taking advantage of ‘cloud computing’ – whether you know it or not. If you use your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, or the like) to access e-mail, then you’re already using ‘cloud computing’. If you log in to your place of employment from off-site (like your home), you’re using ‘the cloud’. If you use Google Docs, you’re storing information in ‘the cloud’. If you back-up to a hosted service (like, you’re in the ‘cloud’. In fact, these days, it’s getting hard to NOT have a part of your computer time in the clouds.

Basically, if you can access your information or data from any computer – be it your home computer, work computer, a computer at a hotel, a friend’s computer, then you have some information stored in the cloud.

So, what’s the big deal? Well, there are a multitude of things, but from my point of view, there are two great benefits of working in the cloud:

First, I don’t need to have MY computer with me all the time. If my information is stored in the cloud, then I can use ANYONE’S computer to get to MY information. It saves lugging my laptop all over creation AND it is very convenient.

Second, someone else is taking care of backing up my data. Rather than trusting my data to my aging laptop, my data is stored on a server somewhere else. This server is probably in a large ‘server farm’ (a collection of servers in one location) which is monitored 24/7 by someone other than me! If there’s a technical issue. they are usually alerted before I even know there’s a problem.

So, you’re ready to start utilizing the cloud, but don’t know how/where. While there are a lot of choices (more arriving every day, it seems), I’m going to focus on one that seems to be a really easy way to get going. Amazon (yes, THAT Amazon) is offering ANYONE 5GB of storage on a ‘Cloud Drive’. This is simply a drive like your C: drive – only it lives ‘out there’ on the web. It is a 5GB Hard Drive for your exclusive use. Have some precious photos, that you would be devastated if you lost? Store them in the cloud. Have a document that you always want to access, but it is only located on your local computer? Store it in the cloud.

To take advantage of this feature, go to You’ll need an Amazon account. Sign up for one, or sign in using the same login you would use to go shopping on Amazon. After answering a couple of Terms and Conditions questions, you’ll find yourself on this screen:

Amazon Cloud Main Screen

From this screen, you can click the ‘Upload Files’ button and upload files to your new web storage location. By default. Amazon sets up four folders – Documents, Music, Pictures, Video. You can set up more if you like. You can add sub-folders if you like. You control the information just as you would a local drive.

Personally, I would not store sensitive or confidential information on a free, cloud-based system…just in case the security isn’t what it’s cracked up to be – or the security is breached (I’m sure that in the agreements I signed virtually, there’s something that says Amazon is not responsible if the files are lost, or security is breached), but for many files, this would be a perfectly safe place to store them, so that I have ready access from any computer.

Why would Amazon offer this service free? They’re hoping that you like it so much that you want to store MORE than 5GB of information, and that you’ll pay for the privilege! The ‘Buy Additional Storage’ button is prominently displayed while you’re working on your Amazon Cloud Drive.

Please be aware that there are LOTS of other alternatives (Google Docs not least among them, but I plan on discussing Google Docs at a later date). I happen to like this simple interface…it is one of the more comfortable ones that I’ve encountered.


  1. Posted October 8, 2014 at 3:49 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hey there! I’m at work surfing around your blog feom myy new iphone!
    Just wanted tto say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all
    your posts! Carry on the great work!

  2. Posted April 25, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink | Reply


    Another way to look at “who is on the cloud already” is to note that anyone with a website on a server is also using “the cloud.” (Never did like that term, but it sure is everywhere, so I guess we’re stuck with it.)

    And not only do we use several servers to house our websites, we also use Amazon S3 (a companion service to the one you mentioned) to host many of our video and audio files. We do that so that when we expect lots of simultaneous “hits” to a website, we don’t overload the server it’s on. Everyone arriving at our website accesses our server, but if they call for a video or audio to play, we want it to be “served” from another computer which is built to handle massive files quickly.

    And we moved away from having our email on our own computers (in a program like Outlook) to viewing them through gmail. And just as you point out, we can now get email from any computer, anywhere.

    Things are looking good!

    Charlie Seymour Jr

  3. Becky Michael
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 7:25 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for your clear as usual (not cloudy!) explanation.

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