Cloud Storage

The Cloud

What is The Cloud? This is a name for a large-scale computing service connected to the internet. The service is provided by a business that operates one or more data centers which are large buildings containing thousands of low cost computers.

This picture shows what a data center looks like inside.
The black frames are called racks and are used to hold the thin boxes which contain special computers with a lot of storage.
A data center can have thousands of computers and huge storage capacity.


It is these data centers that provide the functions needed for cloud services.
Cloud services are provided by many businesses but include AWS (Amazon Web Services), GCP (Google Cloud Platform) and Azure (Microsoft).

What are Cloud Services?

Many cloud services are provided to business customers who are essentially hiring computer power rather than having to buy and maintain their own computers or computer data center.

Businesses may use the cloud for:

  • Developing a new online service and only paying for Cloud computer time used rather than buying their own computers
  • Using 'web apps', software that operates on the cloud computer but is accessed by the user through any device (phone, tablet, laptop…) such as Microsoft Office 365, Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Storage and Archiving information, such as Amazon Glacier
  • Delivering services to customers such as Netflix or Bank ATM services

What is it for?

The idea of the cloud is that any of your devices can access Cloud services from anywhere that you can get an internet connection.
It means that you can take a photo, a video or create a document on your phone and a copy will go to the cloud service and later you can get that same photo or document on your computer or tablet. It may be also that further editing to that photo, video or document will be done with a web app, a cloud based program, and the result stored again in the Cloud.

In many cases the sharing between devices can include collaborative sharing so that more than one person can edit the same document at the same time. For businesses this is brilliant as everyone can access business documents anyway they can access the internet.

For private individuals it is handy to be able to access certain documents at any time, but for the most part the Cloud is useful as a temporary storage space to share data between your devices.

How to get 'in the cloud'?


There are many cloud service providers, some that are provide free storage* with your phone, tablet or computer as part of the purchase.
For example:

  • Android phone or tablet will need a Google account and this account provides you with a Google Drive cloud account with 15GB free per account. Click here for more information.
  • Windows 10 provides a Windows One Drive account with a Windows account. This gives a 5GB free space with more free space if using an Office 365 account.

*The free storage is usually some nominal amount after which further storage space comes with a monthly fee.

Cloud Services From Other Providers

Almost all consumer cloud services have a free allocation of storage,around 5-10GB but after that, extra storage will be on a regular fee basis.

To give an idea of how much space might be needed:

  • Average Person Example: 2,000 photos or 40-200 short videos in about 40 GB
  • Enthusiast Example: 15,000 photos or 40-200 longer videos in about 200 GB

Examples of personal Cloud Storage providers are:

  • Microsoft One Drive - 5GB free
  • Dropbox - 2GB free
  • iDrive - 5GB free
  • pDrive - no free but single payment lifetime accounts available
  • SpiderOak - 2GB free
  • Mega - 15GB free

Most Cloud services will allow all kinds of files (documents, spreadsheets, images, photos….) to be uploaded and stored.
Each service will have different features which may be important or not relevant to your situation. Some will provide lots of free storage but may be slow to transfer the files. Others may limit the amount of file transfers each day but have fast transfer.
Some services provide long term storage, such as Amazon Glacier, but this is primarily archival and may put punitive fees on large amounts of file transfer as the service is not designed to do this.

Apart from storage, most other types of cloud services come as 'software as a service' with a monthly or annual fee.
It may be that 'software as a service' may be the future for computing and eventually all software will be provided as a subscription.

For more information:

Personal Cloud

It is possible to set up your own on-line device at your residence and have it provide storage that you can access anywhere you have internet connection. The type of device involved is usually called NAS or Network Attached Storage.
The details for setting up these devices is outside the purpose of this website and reference should be made to manufacturer's information.

What does it look like?

Like any other file system on a computer, it is basically the familiar list of files in folders.
You can upload files from your computer or other device to a cloud service.
Often this is as easy as using click and drag to move files from your computer to the open window of the cloud service.
This video shows how to upload a file to Dropbox.
NOTE: The video can be viewed in full screen by using the icon in the right hand bottom of the video window.
Click on this icon (at the red arrow) to go full screen and to return after the video is complete.


You can download files from a cloud service to your computer or other device.
This may result in a ZIP folder (compressed) if more than a small number of files are downloaded.
The ZIP folder will need to have the files extracted, using the facility in Windows File Explorer.
This video shows how a zip folder is created when downloading multiple files from Dropbox.

For a more detailed example of Cloud service operation Click here

This video shows how a Zip file must use the Extract option in Windows File Explorer to open the compressed files that have been downloaded.

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