Guest Post by Rohan Naravane.
If you’ve been using computers long enough, there’s a chance you may have experienced the failure of a storage device at least once. Your photos, videos, documents… gone in a flash as your computer storage (like a hard drive) or external storage (like a microSD card) bites the dust. You may have even put in a lot of effort in organising them. I did, and it happened to me a few times. Ever since then, I was careful to back things up on a secondary drive. But since those incidents, I increasingly wished for a day when I don’t have to care backing up my data anymore.
After many years of waiting for internet to get faster/reliable (I live in India) and cloud services to become more consumer-centric and affordable, I can happily admit that today none of my digital possessions are tangible. Here’s how I changed my ways to become a cloud hugger.
Fortunately, my work does not require me to deal with big files; it’s mostly confined to writing, basic image manipulation and email. The first step was to stop using a local document editor like Microsoft Word to the cloud-based Google Docs. This was back in 2010. Today, me and my team happily collaborate on our writing work using Google Docs and spreadsheets using Google Sheets. I don’t remember the last time I ‘downloaded’ email on a client, as Gmail has a very usable web as well as app experience.
But using cloud services for text-based content is hardly anything to be proud of. It isn’t uncommon to see people use cloud-based solutions for these use-cases.
If you check what is taking up most of your storage space, there’s a good chance a lot of it will be audio-visual content.
Thanks to streaming music apps, I no longer have to maintain a ‘collection’ of my songs on a computer or phone. With a reasonably-priced subscription (for e.g Rs. 120 per month for Apple Music), I’m able to listen to whatever I want, whenever I want it. The days of having the whole world’s music right in your pocket are truer than ever. Obviously, I also download my favourite tracks for repeated listening, especially so that I don’t overshoot my monthly data plan.
Now for visual entertainment. I stream TV Shows and Movies to the big screen using Ogle, one of the many up-and-coming streaming services in India. The Hotstar app tieup with HBO and Netflix’s expected arrival in India in 2016 is making the proposition even more interesting. That, along with the entertaining platform we all know that is YouTube, I can’t remember the last time I “downloaded” videos to consume them.
The other capacity-hogging piece of content is photos and videos you shoot. I don’t own a dedicated camera, as a good camera phone suits my imaging needs well. After previously relying on Flickr’s 1TB of free private cloud storage, I’ve migrated every photo and video that I’ve ever clicked on to Google Photos. Not only does Google allow unlimited storage of compressed images (the quality of which I’ve found to be satisfactory), its search capabilities are mind-boggling. Just the other day, my wife asked me to share all photos I’d clicked in our trip to Gurgaon recently, and it took me literally two minutes to search ‘Gurgaon november 2015’, select everything in the search results, create a shared album, and share the link to her over an instant messenger. Last but not least, you can also delete all backed up photos and videos from your smartphone with a single click, thereby making it the easiest way to quickly free up the storage.
Don’t Care About ‘em TBs No More
The day is here where I don’t need own terabytes of storage space. For instance, over 700GB of storage on my current laptop is occupied, but all of it is either redundant content or has already archived on some cloud. So if tomorrow my laptop goes kaput or is stolen, I basically have zero data loss fears. Same goes for my smartphone; there’s nothing in there that I feel I can’t do without. I’m no longer compelled to pay obscene amounts of money to buy a laptop with more than 256GB of flash storage or a smartphone with more than 32GB storage, as those capacities will do just fine for me. Switching from one computing device to another is also no longer the nightmare that I remember it used to be.
Fear of The Dark?
So, what do I effectively lose by doing this? Well, technically since I am currently not in physical possession of any content that I create, I am at the mercy of the cloud providers to give me uninterrupted, reliable service. There are also fears that big companies will use their monopolies to control prices as they please, potentially asking people like me in the future to cough up more money to continue using the services that I today enjoy for free or a nominal charge. Then there are the privacy fears where everything you create is a hack away from being taken away from you for potentially malicious use.
Not to say that I take any of the above concerns lightly. But to me the convenience of outsourcing the accessibility and safety of my data outweighs the potential dangers. Also, like I said before, my work doesn’t require me to work with heavy files, so my recurring costs to go “Pro Cloud” could be lower than yours. After laying down my points, I’m curious — have you taken a similar plunge or are planning to? Sound off in the comments and let me know!