What little kid hasn’t wished that they could do magic? Admit it, you have probably tried to put a rabbit, or at least a plush rabbit, into a hat to see if you could make it disappear, only to reappear again later. The concept of making things disappear and reappear has always been an alluring one.
Growing up, I personally always loved that nifty little bag that Mary Poppins had. She could put her entire world into a handbag. It was far more than she should have been able to carry! And yet there it all was again. Later, I watched in similar fascination as everyone’s favourite witch, Hermione Granger, repeatedly saved the day for Harry Potter with her all-holding purse. I wanted one so badly!
The Digital Magic Purse
Well, today we actually do have something kind of like these magical purses! In a way, you can say that cloud storage is a similar kind of “magic”. You have a lot of things (files) you want to store. You want to be able to “carry” them with you and access them at any time. But realistically, they are too much to keep stored physically on you. So you put them into a magical seeming, but actually very real, cyberspace.
Cloud storage is a new way to store our data files. In the past, any data file we created or used was stored in a physically tangible location on your computer. When we say data files, we mean any kind of information that is generally stored and used on our computers and devices. Most people think of files as word processing documents, like your resume or your almost due homework essay on symbolism in literature. But data files also include things like your digital collection of photos from last summer’s trip to Bali, your iTunes library of 80s hit music, or those digital files of all of your favourite movies. And when we say that it was stored on your computer, we mean that it was saved to a device. The files themselves were written onto data storage devices either inside your computer, like on the hard drive, or connected to your computer, like a USB stick or an external hard drive.
Our Data Hunger Just Keeps Growing!
But in our current data hungry society, we just have so much digital stuff! Much like Mary Poppins and Hermione Granger, we seem to want to take our entire lives in digital form with us everywhere we go. Physical technology tries to keep up. I remember getting a new computer nearly twenty years ago. It had a hard drive with 12 whole Gigabytes! My friends were astonished. There was just NO way I was ever going to fill that thing up! But these days even our phones can hold at least four or five times that. Our external drives are so large now that we have invented Terabytes and even those seem to fill before we even get home.
So rather than becoming that person you see carrying around a bag with ten different bulky external drives clunking around, wires dangling out the sides, we want to find a digital version of those magic purses. And that is where cloud storage comes in.
But Where Exactly IS It?
With cloud storage, you are still saving the same data files. Those files are still yours and you can still access them when you want them. However, instead of keeping them physically on you, you are putting them into a “magical” storage space that you can have with you anywhere.
When you save something to the cloud, you are simply sending that data file to a different place. Whereas in traditional data file storage you saved that file to your computer or disk drive, with cloud storage you are telling the internet to save your file to a remote data storage drive. Basically, there is a huge computer system somewhere else that has lots and lots of storage space. This is the mother of all disk drives. It has plenty of room for everyone’s stuff. And when you save your data to “the cloud”, it is really sending it through the internet to save on that system instead of on your computer. When you are ready to use it again, you access it through the internet.
You CAN Have It All…And All With You!
The advantage to this is that, like those previously mentioned purses, you can store so much more stuff! In fact, in theory, the capacity of storage in “the cloud” is almost limitless. Your only limitation is how much space you personally want to buy. Further, because you access these files through the internet, you can access your files anywhere on any device that has a connection. This means that wherever you go, you will be able to easily show your latest audience all of those embarrassing pictures you took at your mate’s birthday last week. Or, when you run out of the house late for work and arrive only to realise that you have a presentation in ten minutes, you don’t need to worry about the fact that your flash drive is still at home.
Hmmm, But Is It Safe?
Before you start to worry about the safety of storing all of your digital stuff in a collective remote location, don’t. Cloud storage is actually incredibly safe. These systems are backed up and then backed up again. Can you say that about your computer? Come on…be honest. When is the last time you actually backed up your files? I guarantee that it wasn’t as recently as cloud storage systems back themselves up. So instead of losing everything the next time you accidentally drop your laptop down the stairs, if you have cloud storage you will lose absolutely nothing. And you needn’t worry about strangers having access to your private stuff. Your secret first draft of that superhero novel you are writing will stay safe from prying eyes. Cloud storage systems use strong encryptions to prevent your data from being hacked.
So before you pull out your credit card and buy yet another 2 terabyte external hard drive to add to your growing data storage mountain, stop. Instead, go get yourself your very own magical purse of data and set up your cloud storage solution.