David Goodwin addressing the iCloud at One
While technology hasn’t advanced to the point where it can do all the hard work for you, it can certainly make life a lot easier for writers. The rise of cloud technology provides a number of tools for content producers, and when used properly can save large amounts of time and effort—and reduce stress, too!
What is the cloud?
The cloud is a generic term for services that store your data on a remote server online, allowing it to be accessed from any location where you have a internet connection. There are a number of services, many of which let you share files with other people, and even collaborate with writing and editing them.
Among the major providers are Apple’s iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft’s Office 365. All of them provide a basic free service, with extra storage space and services available via a subscription based model. While they provide similar functions, they have their own strengths and weaknesses and some are better suited to particular purposes. Fortunately, there is no reason you are limited to using just one of them.
The most basic use for the cloud is backing up your data. Files saved to the cloud don’t only exist on the machine or device you are using so if you were to suffer from theft or a hardware breakdown you wouldn’t lose your files. Many of them also keep a few versions of files, meaning you can recover deleted or changed files.
ICloud is particularly suited to backing up photos and settings from iPhones, all of them have desktop versions that provide a local directory that syncs to the online server so you can simply save or drop files there.
The only limitation is the amount of storage space provided, especially on the free plans. While documents may not take up much room, photos and videos soon add up.
For those who work at multiple sites or between multiple devices, perhaps between home and work, the ability to access files from anywhere can be a massive boost to productivity. Being able to save a file at one location, and then pick up where you left off at another means you can make the most of writing time without having to carry files around on a USB drive or worry about what version you have. When a file is changed in one place, changes are synced with the remote server, and then they are applied to the versions at other locations.
Jeremy Dover, Peter Brookshaw, David Goodwin at One Day in Melbourne
There are different levels of collaboration available. At the most basic level, giving someone access to your documents means no emailing documents back and forth, and less chance of working on the wrong version.
However, some services go a step further, allowing multiple users access at the same time, even letting you see the changes they are making in real time. This is especially useful for allowing people at different locations to connect via voice or video chat and discuss changes as they are making them.
Mix and Match
While some of the services allow writing and editing through their own tools—Google drive has online tools while Office 365 has online versions of the Office suite—some are better suited to be used alongside other tools, or you may prefer to use what you are familiar with over the provided tools.
There is no reason why you can’t save files from Word into your Dropbox folder, for example, or only use the storage components of Google Drive, rather than their online editor.
Alongside the many benefits that come with using the cloud, there’re also some things to keep in mind. Because your data is being stored elsewhere it is vital to adhere to good security practices. Use strong passwords—and not the same one for different services—and change them regularly.
Think about what data you are storing in the cloud. Nothing is 100% safe when it comes to technology, so there are some things that you should think twice about storing online—financial data is one that comes to mind.
And, make sure you understand the legal implications—some data has restrictions on not being allowed to be stored on foreign servers, or requires additional security.
It is also worthwhile to regularly audit who has access to your files, or what you have shared rather than setting and forgetting.
Bill and Aira Chilcott and John Lemmon at One Day in Melbourne
David Goodwin is the Editor of The Salvation Army’s magazine,War Cry. He is also a cricket tragic, and an unapologetic geek.
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