Try These Free Cloud Services

Category: Cloud

Cloud computing is at once a buzzword, and a simple, versatile concept. Just turn over your data and software needs to the experts up there in “the cloud” of the Internet. Let them worry about storing your data, keeping it secure, organizing it, and maintaining software that lets you manage it. Check out these different types of cloud services that offer convenience, productivity, security and even entertainment...

Head in the Cloud?

Cloud services can simplify your digital life, and most of them offer free options. If you don't enjoy installing and maintaining software, or you're sometimes frustrated that the information you want is only available on the computer back at your home or office, then you'll benefit by using the cloud.

What can the cloud do for you? How about access to your email or music collection from ANY computer or mobile device? Or creating documents and spreadsheets, without having to buy expensive "office" software? Wouldn't you like to have all your documents at your fingertips, and be certain they're backed up and safe from fire, flood, viruses and hard drive crashes?

All you need is the right Internet-enabled device (desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone) to play or work wherever you are. Here's an introduction to cloud services that you can try.

Free Cloud Services

Email was one of the first big things to migrate to the cloud. Instead of managing your email with software that's tied to one specific computer, all you need now is a Web browser. Google's Gmail, Microsoft's (formerly called Hotmail), and Yahoo Mail are three major names in this Webmail game. All but the puniest ISPs provide some sort of Webmail interface to their email servers. I stopped using desktop email software 15 years ago, and I find it very convenient to access my Gmail messages at home, with my laptop while traveling, and on my smartphone. If I have an internet connection or a mobile data signal, my email is there.

When it comes to work, there are several cloud-based office productivity services available. The best known one is probably Google Docs, followed by Microsoft Office 365. Zoho is another major player. These cloud services let you create Office-compatible word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation documents. You can access them from anywhere, and collaborate on them with colleagues.

Music is migrating to the cloud, making your favorite tunes available for listening on computers, phones, Internet jukeboxes, and home entertainment centers. What music lover doesn’t have Spotify, Slacker, Pandora, Google Play, SoundCloud or some other streaming music service based in the cloud? Music services sell you one song at a time instead of making you buy a whole album. You don’t need CD towers to store your tunes, specialized music players, or bulky carrying cases to take them with you. See Get Your Free Online Music for more info about cloud-based music services.

Cloud-based storage space is a more generalized amenity. It’s like having a briefcase that you don’t have to carry around, which contains things you might need wherever you are. Oh, and you can give your friends and coworkers access to specific files in your cloud storage, or to entire folders. Examples of cloud storage services include Dropbox, Apple iCloud, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive. Learn more about these options in my article Free Cloud Storage Services and also how you can access over 100 GB of free online storage.

Backup files are obvious candidates for cloud storage. Having a backup on an external hard drive is good, but it’s even better to keep at least one set of backup files off-site, in case a natural disaster affects your home or office. Cloud-based backup services such as iDrive and Carbonite provide software that automatically and efficiently backs up your data, and other applications that make restoring full backups or selected files easy.

Screen-sharing apps based in the cloud are a popular collaboration tool. You can display anything on your monitor to a bunch of people who may be anywhere on the Internet. Remote control of another person’s computer is also a possibility, if you're called upon to provide tech support for family and friends. So is file transfer between users. See my article Free Screen Sharing and Remote Access Tools for links to some of the most popular tools.

The “note taking” category of cloud-based services is kind of a catch-all. Evernote, for instance, lets you easily stash text, image, audio, and other types of files; create typed notes on the fly; save bookmarks; and even send yourself notes from Twitter. Then you can access and search your notes from a variety of devices. Similar note-taking apps include Microsoft Onenote, Apple Notes, and Simplenote.

Cloud services are popping up everywhere, replacing local storage and computing resources. However, many people still feel better having their data close and their software under their control. It's debatable whether keeping everything on your hard drive makes you more secure. But it's good to have choices!

Do you have something to say about cloud services? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Try These Free Cloud Services"

Posted by:

03 Dec 2019

You suggested using only cloud email. I use Thunderbird locally, which provides better sorting, searching, address book, and filters, and maintains a cache to provide good response when the Internet is slow. I sync my desk machine and laptop, so I have the same access on my laptop. With IMAP, I can also access the same email on any other device, except for local folders which I explicitly create and don't need to access elsewhere.

Posted by:

03 Dec 2019

I do not fear The Cloud. But I can not help but wonder who came up with the name 'cloud" as a safe permanent storage place. When I think of a cloud I think of a white wispy floating thing in the sky. The cloud I envision is there one minute and either changed or gone the next. One day the sky is filled with clouds and the next day there are no clouds at all in the sky.
Clouds are pretty and can look like ducks or even the starship Enterprise. The can also be dark and rolling and filled with rain or snow than can flood or damage the ground or houses.

Do I then feel safe putting my stuff in something called a cloud? Probably not. Again, who came up with this name? And why?

Had they said store my data in the sky for safety I might feel better. Rain, sleet, snow, or fish falling, the sky is always there. A cloud... not so much.

Posted by:

03 Dec 2019

I would take issue with describing some online office sites as "Office-compatible word processors and spreadsheets."
"Office-compatible" is a loosely-defined phrase. Try using any macros or specialized formatting, and those "compatible" word processors and spreadsheets quickly become incompatible.
In fact, that would be a good subject for another day. Just how "compatible" does an app have to be to earn that title?

Posted by:

03 Dec 2019

Okay! Now that the preamble is over, what Mr. Rankin needs to educate us on next is how to make our own home PCs the private servers for our mobile life-style. Rather than having to "Just turn over your data and software needs to the experts up there..." ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Posted by:

04 Dec 2019

Dear Bob,
Thanks for a very informative article. I enjoyed learning about all of the assets available in the cloud.

Posted by:

Jay R
04 Dec 2019

Isn't it weird?
Isn't it queer?
Moving my storage this late in my career.
But where is the cloud?
There ought to be clouds.
Don't bother, it's here.

Posted by:

Brian B
04 Dec 2019

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are not names that fill me with confidence when talking about security.

Posted by:

Stan Duncan
04 Dec 2019

I want to emphasize what Sam said above. I too use Thunderbird on my desktop computer and find it much easier to use and user friendly than gmail. When I travel, I can use zoho or to read my mail, and then I can file them in my Thunderbird directories when I get home.

Also want to reiterate what Jack said, that "'Office-compatible' is a loosely-defined phrase." A lot of programs claim compatibility, but they are just barely so. Google Docs can call up MS Office docs for editing, but then when you need to save them, they push you to Google's online drive and saves them as Google docs. I would like a discussion of Zoho, WPS, OnlyOffice, and others to learn about the best in functionality and compatibility.

Posted by:

Peter Lawson
01 Jan 2020 is excellent

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Try These Free Cloud Services (Posted: 3 Dec 2019)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved