The Cloud, Day 22: In and Out of the Cloud

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30 Days With the Cloud: Day 22

Storing my documents, photos, music, and other data in the cloud is great. During the course of the 30 Days With the Cloud series, though, I have also come across a little problem -- keeping track of whether I am in the cloud, or not.

Cloud service providers have gone to great lengths to seamlessly integrate data into the traditional framework of operating systems and applications. My data is just as accessible and seems to behave the same way whether it is in the cloud or stored locally on my desktop or mobile device.

I use Box to store my documents in the cloud. But, on my PC it just shows up as a folder that I have set as my default for saving documents. Any files I store there are automatically synced to the cloud, and subsequently available on my iPad, Xoom, Kindle Fire, or iPhone.

My music is all stored locally on my PC. Actually, it is stored on an external USB drive connected to my PC -- but it’s local to me. Thanks to Apple’s iCloud, and Amazon Cloud Player, all of that music is also available to me from the cloud to play on my mobile devices.

I need to remember whether my data is in the cloud or not when I know I won't be connected.
The same thing is true for my photos. I have them all stored safely on local drives, but thanks to Apple PhotoStream, the pictures I take with my iPad or iPhone -- my “primary” camera -- are instantly uploaded and synced to other PhotoStream-enabled devices. A service like Flickr is more platform-agnostic, though, and gives me broader access to my photos from virtually any device.

For day to day use, these things just feel a natural extension of my traditional desktop experience. But, as I was preparing for a trip this week, it hit me that I need to be aware of where the data really lives, and take steps to ensure I have access to the data I need even when the cloud is unavailable. It is sort of an extension of the idea of what happens when you lose connectivity – but from the perspective that it is planned and I have time to consider what I will or won’t need access to.

It mainly occurred to me as a function of iTunes Match. I knew I would be on a plane at 30,000 feet for three or four hours, and I wanted to make sure I would have tunes to play on my iPad or iPhone during the trip. With no Internet connectivity, having thousands of songs available in the cloud offers little value.

The files I store in the Box folder on my laptop are still stored there as well, so I don’t need to be concerned if I am using the laptop. But, if I plan to get any productive work done from my iPad, I need to first make sure any data I need is flagged and stored for offline access before I lost cloud connectivity.

It is a relatively minor issue, and one that doesn’t come up often. But, I have made a mental note of the fact that I need to be conscious of where my data is, and where I will be, and plan ahead if I will need access to data when the cloud won’t be available.

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

Day 21: My Data Might Be Safer in the Cloud

Day 23: Wherever You Go, There It Is

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