If you’re “computer savvy”, the above “Cloud services” will probably mean something to you so you might want to skip to Part 2. If you’re “not into computers” you might have heard of them but don’t really know what they are. Unfortunately going to the Microsoft Onedrive site or the Apple iCloud site or the Google Googledrive site won’t help much. Oh sure they all tell you what you can do but don’t really explain what it is, maybe most people don’t want to know but maybe a lot of people shy away from these very useful services because they don’t really know what they are and may be a little apprehensive about using the services.
OK, so what are “Cloud services” and what is “The Cloud“, hop over to my pcjudo.co.uk site for more info. A quick definition of the “The Cloud” is:- It’s a collection of servers located anywhere on the planet, to provide things like email, websites and off-site storage and a few other things. Not much help that, is it 🙂
A “server” is just a computer but it’s almost always more powerful and has more storage capacity than the PC you have on your desktop. The servers in “The Cloud” are mostly dedicated to do one or maybe 2 specific jobs. For example, when you go to www.pcjudo.co.uk, you are accessing a “Web(page) server”. This server was located in the USA but now it’s new home is in the UK. It doesn’t matter where the server is located, the “URL or web address” (e.g pcjudo.co.uk) is unique to each website and when you type/enter that web address into your “Web Browser”, it will find the webpage(s) for the site you entered e.g. pcjudo.co.uk (my sites don’t need you to put http:// or www)
The server is in “the Cloud” and could be physically located anywhere on the planet! Imagine going into a Bar/Pub etc, you order a drink from the Bar Tender. The Bar Tender is a “server“, you ask for something and he/she servers it up; that’s basically what a computer server does!
In the case of Webpages, you are only asking to see the content (like reading a book in the library) and you would use a “Web Browser”, such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, etc to view the content (webpage), and remember the webpages that you are requesting to look at; could be stored on a server physically located anywhere on the planet!
When you access your email, if you use a (web) browser, you are using “WebMail”. If you use something like Mozilla Thunderbird or Microsoft Outlook etc, you are using an Email Client; which basically allows you to store your email on your own PC and view it without using a Web Browser. Whichever method you use, Email is provided by “Email Servers” and unlike “Web Servers“, it’s a two way thing! You download (collect) your email and upload (send) your messages to other people.
The “Two way thing” is the basis of Onedrive, iCloud, GoogleDrive etc but instead of storing Email, you store your photos and documents. This is referred to as “Cloud Storage” because the servers for these Cloud Services can be physically located anywhere on the planet. Think about your Bank, you put money in and you take money out, you haven’t a clue where your actual money is, it’s all done electronically. In the case of Onedrive etc, you can upload your photos and other documents to the “Cloud (storage) Server” and you can also view or download your photos and documents. Basically Cloud storage is like renting space somewhere to store your stuff and you can access it whenever you want. When you rent some storage space, generally you know exactly where it is located. In the case of “The Cloud“, it could be held on a server anywhere on the planet but due to the magic of the Internet, you can access it without knowing where it is; and that is magic!
Microsoft, Apple and Google do provide some storage space for free, so it’s quite easy to get started without paying anything.
So now you know what a server is, it’s just another computer that does a different job to your desktop PC or Laptop. In the case of a Cloud Server, it can be located anywhere on the planet!
Something you don’t need to know but I thought worth a mention is that without DNS, non of this would be possible. I’ve done a good description about DNS on pcjudo, it’s in the glossary bit if you’re interested.
The beauty of using Onedrive, iCloud, GoogleDrive etc, is that generally speaking; you can access your photos and other documents at any time from any device that has an Internet connection. It doesn’t matter where you are on the planet or where on the planet your stuff is! If you have more than one device (computer or smartphone etc), you can have access to all the same photos and other documents. That’s the nature of “The Cloud” and “Cloud Services” and it’s a very useful thing to have. Although I do have some reservations!
The thing about these “Cloud Storage Services” that isn’t explained very well is that there are two parts! The main part is the actual “Cloud Storage server” (which is usually accessed using a “Web Browser” by going to e.g. www.onedrive.com) and the other part is the “Client“! You install the client as an App or desktop program. If you don’t install the “Client side” bit, you have to do everything using a web browser which limits the capability.
I use several versions of MS Windows and I have a Windows phone. I have the Client (App) installed on the phone so when I take a pic, it is automatically uploaded to the Onedrive (Cloud Storage) server. As I have the Onedrive client also installed on my Windows PCs, the pictures from the phone are available to me on the Windows PCs, without having to use a Web browser. On PCs, the “client” creates a set of folders under your username profile and this set of folders is identical to the folders on the Cloud server. The client and cloud server talk to each other and synchronise the folders so that the content is the same. All of your devices with the Client installed will have the same photos and documents.
The Onedrive client app used on your phone works differently to the PC client. When you click on the Onedrive app on your phone, you need to have an Internet connection as this is basically a sort of browser version. It doesn’t create a set of identical folders on your phone or iPad. I’m not sure about Android tablets but guess it will be the same as ‘droid phones.
If you have an Android smartphone, it will be optimised to use Googledrive and if you have an iPad, it will be optimised to use iCloud but generally speaking you can use which ever cloud service you want on any device, although Apple would prefer you to use iCloud! They all work basically the same but there are some differences, so go with what you prefer.
The thing to bare in mind is that the “Cloud server” is designed to be the control! This means that anything that you put into your Windows PC desktop “client folders” (Think of these as “local” folders, they are local to you, not in the cloud) will be uploaded to the cloud server. Any other Windows PC/Laptop that has the client, will also have their client (local) folders updated. This means that if you add or delete something from your local “client folders”, the changes will replicate to all your devices that have the client installed. You can log in to the Cloud server using a browser and edit/delete/ move files to other folders and these changes will be replicated to all of your devices or will available via the Onedrive app on your phone.
Your smartphone will normally only upload photos when you have a WiFi connection but you can amend this setting if you want. Useful when out n about and checking in to Facebook etc.
If you’re a happy snapper and have a lot of photos on your Windows phone that you want to move or delete from the Camera_Roll folder on your phone and you are using Onedrive, for example. Use a browser (Firefox, I.E, Chrome etc) Log in to Onedrive.com using your Microsoft account (hotmail or Outlook, usually) If you want to save the pics but move them out of the Camera Roll folder; Create a new folder e.g. old_photos and then navigate to the Camera Roll folder and select the pictures you want to move, then select “Move to” and select “old_Photos” or whatever you called the new folder.
This will only move the pics out of the Camera_Roll folder, the new folder will be replicated on your phone and your PC so if you’re trying to free up space on your phone, you will need to select the photos in the Camera_Roll folder and delete them (instead of moving them) but make sure you have a backup; just in case 🙂
iPad Air (might be same on all iPads). You can upload your pics directly and automatically to Onedrive but the Camera-Roll folder doesn’t “Sync” with Onedrive. If you want to grab some pics from Onedrive, you will have to use the Onedrive App and download them. This will download them to your Camera_Roll folder on the iPad.
Android phone (Moto G). The above tip doesn’t seem to work, when you log in to Onedrive website and create a new folder, the “Move” bit only copies the pic instead of moving it! It would seem that Onedrive doesn’t Sync with the camera-roll folder on your phone but you can still auto upload pics to Onedrive.