For Part Two, we are shifting focus and thinking more about how and why you use it. Remember, cloud storage is like having your own personal drawer on the internet to put stuff in. But once you have it and understand the basics, there's so much more you can do besides simply use it for traditional backup and storage.
Below, to finish off our 10 best cloud storage tips, we have a final five exploring how to make the most of your service once you subscribe to the solution that best fits your own needs.
6) What else can my cloud storage do?
It's a simple but important question and one that is key if you want to wade deeper into cloud storage. If you're still looking for the best provider for you, it's also a useful checklist for choosing one.
- Multi Users/Devices - How are you going to access your cloud storage - computer, smartphone, tablet? As well as logging into it via a website, it's worth checking which cloud storage providers offer a dedicated app; this proves very handy if you're uploading direct from a mobile device.
- Sharing - This is the true beauty of cloud storage, being able to share files and folders with others so that they can either access and download them or collaborate with you on them. For example, you could store a text-based document in the cloud and share it with a friend or colleague and both of you could make changes to it in real time.
- Playback - Being able to watch or listen to your files when they are stored in the cloud, through your provider's platform, is another great feature to look for. If you have a small amount of dedicated storage on your computer hard drive, for example, it can be a great option to have.
7) The importance of collaboration
As we said above, this feature is one of the key reasons so many people use cloud storage and it's useful whether you're wanting to share documents with friends, family or work mates.
If this is important to you, then Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive are both worth considering as they combine cloud storage with access to their own suite of document, spreadsheet and presentation tools.
With this, you'll be able to assign all sorts of different permissions to different people, offering them various levels of access to your files for collaboration.
Some, for instance, could be given the ability to simply view or download the file. Others could be offered the chance to make full changes or you could make it so they can simply comment or annotate.
For young people, this feature can be vital to collaborate together on homework and coursework while for business, the possibilities are endless - a client seeking input, leaving a presentation half-finished for someone else to pick up or giving your boss the final oversight to make changes on that important contract.
8) Regularly organise and clean out your cloud storage
Now like any drawer in your house, if it is not regularly tidied up, it will start to get messy, cluttered and overflow - and that means you could soon run out of space and need to buy more. Often this is a waste, it just needs a sort out.
A cluttered cloud storage will also mean it is hard to find what you need, unless you know the filename to search for. To avoid this, try these three quick tips:
1) Set aside a couple of hours each month to go through your cloud storage and delete anything you no longer need. Old photos, documents you only used once, music files you won't ever listen to again or videos you've already watched.
2) Create a simple but effective folder structure as this will make it easy to find what you need in an instant. You might have top tier folders for HOME and WORK. Or there might be others for your different businesses or individual family members. Within these you may have sub folders such as HOLIDAYS, BILLS or RECEIPTS. And within those you may go further, drilling down into the particular year, the provider involved or the holiday destination where the photos are from.
3) Think carefully about the file names you choose, so that they are easily searchable. All cloud storage has a search function. Try to keep to similar naming conventions for similar files and ensure an obvious keyword is used in the file name. If a photo was taken in Italy, 'Italy' should be in the name. If you're uploading copies of your electric and gas bills, use the words 'electric' or 'gas'.
9) Regularly review your cloud storage security
It's all very well having everything stored in the cloud but given so much of it will be personal to you or critical to your work, robust security is paramount. If someone got hold of what was in there, they could steal your identity, take money from your bank accounts or commit fraud by accessing your company.
It all begins with your password. Never write it down. Never store it inside your email inbox. Never give it out to anyone who rings up. And never have the same password for your cloud storage as you have for other accounts. This piece gives a great rundown on choosing a password - and, importantly, remembering it.
Many cloud storage platforms will offer some kind of encryption feature too so if you're storing ultra-sensitive data, it's best to spend time researching which will offer you the highest levels of security.
One other thing to remember is that it is important to regularly go through and look at who you have shared access with.
Perhaps you are no longer friends with someone or they don't work for you, or with you, any more. It's easy - and critical - to remove access from people who don't need it. If their own computer or device was hacked, it could give a third-party an open door into the parts of your cloud storage they had access to.
10) Keep a local/hard copy of your data
All technology can break or fail. If you only rely on the cloud to store all of your files and data and documents, there may be times when it is inaccessible. For example, on the rare occasion your ultrafast broadband encounters a problem that needs to be fixed by an engineer.
A backup hard drive is cheap and easy. You can buy one with 1TB of space - more than enough for most - for less than £50. You could also purchase a USB stick, which will do the job well too. These will usually have less storage than an external hard drive but they are more portable.
However, it is important to set up a password for your USB stick if you are taking it out and about. If it got lost, everything on it could easily be stolen without one.
Using Windows 10 on a laptop or Time Machine on a Mac computer, you can easily and automatically backup to an external hard drive or USB stick - this is useful too should your computer ever break and need restoring after a repair.
Whatever cloud storage solution you choose to use, hopefully our two-part guide has given you a starting point to think about what you need to consider and look for.