Web & communication software

The Cloud, Day 25: The Cloud Is Becoming Mandatory

30 Days With the Cloud: Day 25

Throughout the 30 Days with the Cloud experiment I have explored the pros and cons associated with using cloud-based services, or storing data in the cloud. The goal has been to figure out whether or not relying on the cloud is a good idea. The reality, though, is that the cloud may not be optional.

The mobility trend is driving demand for the cloud and in some cases making cloud services mandatory to some extent. As I’ve discovered on many previous days during this series, there are huge benefits to being able to access my productivity tools and data from the cloud. It means I can be productive from virtually anywhere, using just about any device that can connect to the Internet.

But, with cutting edge technology the cloud shifts from a convenience to a requirement. Smartphones, tablets, and ultrabooks are built on flash storage with significantly smaller capacities than standard hard drives. You might be able to store 500GB or even a terabyte of data on your old notebook, but smartphones and tablets are generally limited to 32GB or 64GB, and even top of the line SSD storage in ultrabooks typically tops out at 256GB.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that there wasn’t room on my 128GB laptop SSD to store my 70GB of music, and that 128GB can fill up very quickly with Word docs and PowerPoint presentations. Basically, with only 128GB to work with, I have to be much more discriminating about what files get to stay on the laptop.

For devices like tablets and smartphones, the cloud is virtually mandatory.
But, I have the cloud. I store my data files on Box.com. I can access them from anywhere I can connect to the Internet, and they don’t use up precious storage space on my laptop. I moved the music folder to an external USB drive, but I don’t want to carry that around with me--it defeats the purpose of having an ultrathin laptop. Thankfully, though, all of my music is available through iCloud.

When I bought the iPad 2, for some reason I opted for the 64GB Wi-Fi model. If I needed to connect where no Wi-Fi network was available I would simply tether from my iPhone. The problem, though, is that even at four times the capacity of the 16GB model, I still can’t store all of my music locally on the iPad 2.

With the new iPad, I chose the 16GB 4G model. I went with 4G because I’d rather have a blazing fast cellular data connection from the iPad itself than to tether the connection from the sad, slow 3G on the iPhone. The reason I chose the 16GB model, though, is that I figured out that with all of my music in iCloud, and all of my files and data in Box, I don’t have any need for more storage capacity.

If I was just sitting in my office using a desktop PC, I can choose whether or not to use the cloud. If I was using a standard notebook with a massive hard drive, I would also have the luxury of deciding whether or not the cloud makes sense for me. But, when I am using a 16GB iPhone 4S, a 16GB iPad, and a MacBook Air with a 128GB SSD, local storage space is at a premium and relying on the cloud becomes virtually mandatory rather than a convenient option.

Read the Last "30 Days" series: 30 Days With Windows Phone 7

Day 24: Backing Up Your Cloud

Day 26: Too Much Cloud Can Be a Bad Thing

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