With the spread of fibre optic connectivity throughout the world broadband internet is finally living up to its full potential. In many countries net users are lucky enough to have access to ultrafast fibre optic broadband with speeds of up to 1Gb, and even those places where full fibre is not yet available it’s still common to find home broadband services with speeds several times faster than basic ADSL.
This broadband speed boom has helped contribute to the explosive growth of cloud computing. At one time internet access was too slow and too unreliable to consider relying upon it for vital functions, but it’s now so universal that many of the tasks we use a computer for on a daily basis can be moved onto the cloud for greater convenience and flexibility.
Here are just a few ways to take advantage of the cloud with a superfast broadband link…
Backup your hard disk to the cloud
How many of you keep backups? Not enough of us have our vital files safeguarded and this can lead to disaster in the event of a hard drive failure, theft or loss.
External hard drives are now very affordable, and recommended as a quick way to backup your data, but you either need to remember to keep everything up to date or configure a software tool to do it for you. And an external drive is also vulnerable to theft and damage.
The cloud may be the answer to backup woes. For one thing, backup services (like the popular CrashPlan or Backblaze) are fire and forget solutions. Configure the software, and they’ll automatically upload the selected files and folders, ensuring that the remote copies are updated at the same time as the local files without any further input. And because it’s offsite, you don’t need to worry about the physical safety of your computer – even if everything was lost in a fire you could still recover the latest version of essential data. It is, essentially, secure cloud storage.
And if you have extremely important files, cloud backup can sit alongside external hard drives or other local backup solutions, covering all eventualities.
The downside is that uploading data to a cloud service can take some time if there’s a large amount of data, but this is less of a concern with the fast upstream speeds of superfast broadband.
Switch to cloud applications
There was a time when the idea of replacing Photoshop or MS Word with a web browser app would have been laughable, but this futuristic concept is now a reality.
Google Docs is the most famous example. With GDocs you get a free word processor, spreadshoot tool, PowerPoint-style presentation creator and even an online equivalent of MS Paint. Whatever you’re working on is constantly saved, so you can be confident that your files will still be there if the net goes down or your computer crashes. It also integrates seamlessly with Google Drive storage.
Not to be outdone, Microsoft has Office 365, which provides online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Unlike GDocs a subscription is required, but they’re far more powerful and better suited to professional use.
One impressive demonstration of a cloud app is Pixlr.com. This online image editor is surprisingly powerful, perfect for those who require something that’s more capable than MS Paint but without the high cost of Adobe Photoshop.
Host your own cloud storage server
As useful as the cloud can be, the reputation of cloud-based services (particularly those located in the US) has taken a hit recently with the revelation that the NSA is capable of monitoring just about anything you do online.
If you’re uncertain about trusting cloud storage providers an alternative to consider is using your superfast broadband to host your own server.
This doesn’t need to be complex. All the major manufacturers – including Western Digital, Buffalo and Iomega – offer network-connected hard drives with cloud functionality built in. They’re designed to be extremely simple to configure and use, and once setup in your home you can hide the drive in a cupboard or under the desk and remotely connect to upload and download your files or stream music and video.
Another option is ownCloud, which is installed on a computer (or web server) to transform it into a cloud storage service. This is a little more involved, but far more powerful and the end result resembles a customised Dropbox that you fully control. It doesn’t need an ultra powerful PC either, so you can cobble together a suitable system with a free Linux OS for very little.
Take your media online
Convenience is a big part of why cloud computing is so popular, and one of the best demonstrations of this is Google Music.
While Google Music does act as a competitor to both iTunes and Spotify, it also provides free storage for up to 20,000 of your own music files. These are uploaded from your computer with a simple application, and once completed you have instant access to your entire library over a web browser or smartphone, eliminating the need to store music locally. It also provides an easy backup of your music files!
A similar service is also now offered by Apple with iTunes, and Amazon’s Cloud music player. And startup Qvivo provides unlimited storage and streaming of both music and video.
But to take full advantage of that superfast connection, look no further than Plex. Once installed on your own computer (either a dedicated media server or any laptop or desktop) this application provides access to your music, TV shows and movies with a slick interface that’s designed for big screen viewing. Content can be streamed to smartphones, tablets and other computers both locally and remotely, and it’s supported by a wide range of streaming media players such as the Roku.