By Bianca Chan

Cloud computing, more popularly known as “the cloud,” is essential for any online student. Your work, your lectures, your notes, essays and assignments all live on your computer’s hard drive or are completed on a public computer. Because of this blessing – and curse – it’s imperative to have a safe place to store these precious files, confidently knowing you won’t lose them when your computer crashes, breaks, gets lost, or if you have any other ungodly thing happen to your hard work.

What is the cloud?

The cloud is a place on the Internet where data and programs are stored and accessed, rather than having them on your computer’s hard drive. The term comes from the earlier days of the online world when the massive infrastructure of the Internet was represented by floating cotton ball clouds that accepted connections and sent out information.

The cloud is not on your hard drive. It’s not physically close to you in your computer’s hardware. In order for it to be considered “the cloud,” it must allow you to access your work over the Internet. This means, with an Internet connection, you can use the cloud anytime and anywhere.

Using the cloud for anyone, but especially online students, is a no-brainer. Picking which cloud to use can be a little trickier. The cloud has become such a popular concept and tool in the past decade that there are countless apps and resources to choose from.

Google Drive

Cloud computing is just one of the functions in Google Drive. Google combines office tools such as a word processor, spreadsheet builder, presentation app, as well as 15GB of free storage space. This is a lot of storage space – trust me. It also enables you to upload almost anything into the Drive, including documents, whole files, photos, videos, Photoshop projects and more.

One attractive aspect of Google Drive is in-office editing, which means you can create documents, spreadsheets and presentations right in the window, or edit existing ones. Google Drive also requires very little setup, especially if you already have a Google account, because you can send and save files directly to Drive from your Gmail.

Dropbox

Dropbox is a popular cloud option because of its accessibility and simplicity. Your files live on the Dropbox website, or as an app on your Mac, Windows or Linux laptops and on iOS, Android and Blackberry mobile apps. Dropbox is good for sharing easily when you use different kinds of devices.

Dropbox excels at syncing up your cloud with all of your devices, so you can access your files through the Internet, or using data on your mobile phone in a pinch. Moreover, there is no size limit on uploads and if you end up putting lots onto the cloud, Dropbox makes it easy to upgrade your storage size. Unfortunately, the initial storage size is 2GB (I told you 15GB was a lot).

OneDrive

OneDrive is Microsoft’s resident storage option. It’s most noticeable strength is that it works seamlessly with Microsoft Office. This includes Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint. Therefore, when one of these apps is launched, your projects and documents are saved directly into OneDrive, which saves a lot of paranoid “Save” clicks during your work. This auto-save feature also applies to Android, iOS and Windows phone apps with photos. As soon as you take a picture with your phone, it’s saved to OneDrive.

This cloud is best for if you have a Windows PC, tablet or phone and need to access your files from any device.

Box (Personal)

 Box isn’t as well known as its famous counterpart, Dropbox, mentioned above, but it should be. As a full-featured and highly reliable storage and syncing service, Box’s best selling feature is its customizability. This makes it a perfect match for both businesses and home users. It is easy to use, has a rich features set and is well designed for collaboration. Stuck in an online group project? Box is your answer.

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