Life Tech File high club: A dummy’s guide to the cloud

File high club: A dummy’s guide to the cloud

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Storing your life in a cloud would have been a nonsensical statement less than five years ago, but now it has become the fastest and easiest way to back up your tech life.

If the mere mention of the iCloud is enough to send you running for the lockable filing cabinet, here’s our guide to getting the most out of your cloud.

A study by cloud storage provider EMC found Australian organisations spent more than $776,000 on data recovery in the last 12 months, while data security breaches have cost almost $1 million.

Personal data recovery is also an expensive undertaking. At least one data recovery agency estimates the average price for recovering data on a hard disk is about $8000 and takes one-to-two weeks.

In mobile phone alone, data recovery agency Kroll Ontrack, says there was an increase in demand for recovery of 165 per cent from 2011 to 2012 with expectations that would continue to increase.

Cloud storage of any kind seems like it needs to come with a downloadable tech geek to help get your head around where to find your files and work out how secure they really are.

HackLabs director Chris Gatford says cloud storage is excellent – providing it’s for the right kind of data. Confidential or secret data should not be kept in a cloud.

“It comes down to the provider and, us security types we are paranoid, and I live by the motto don’t put anything online that you aren’t prepared to print out and stick on the front of your house,” he says.

I live by the motto don’t put anything online that you aren’t prepared to print out and stick on the front of your house

“You need to consider the type of information you are putting up and the type of security controls. Is the information going offshore? Is it stored in more than one location.”

Gatford recommends only using cloud storage that has a two step privacy set-up, such as a login and password and also a token such as computer authorisation. He says to be cautious over other security measures such as answers to secret questions. “You should not use your true date of birth, you should be obfuscating some of this information to make no sense at all, but is something you will remember.

“So ‘What is the name of your first pet?’, rather than a pet name you should say ‘The green door is blue’, because [the question] is the mechanism that has been attacked most frequently to gain access to the cloud.”

However, if secure, clouds are an ideal solution to back-up data. Here’s our guide to getting the most out of your cloud.


Free storage: 5GB
Buy more: $21 a year for 10GB extra up to $105 a year for 50GB.

iCloud lets you access your music, photos, documents and more from whatever device you’re on. Sounds great, right? Take a pic on your iPhone and it’ll appear on your laptop instantly. It also makes it convenient for you, (and the company’s bottom line) to only own Apple.

Pros: Using the cloud properly allows easy transition between all your devices, particularly for day-to-day uses like contacts and calendar and for access to apps, photos, music and reading.

Cons: It is not simple to save and share files. The iCloud works on an app basis rather than files, so file syncing within an app (ie music) is fine, but getting a presentation from your office PC to your home is more difficult. If you use Apple products, we recommend using iCloud as well as another online storage platform.


Set it up

• Go to “System Preferences” and select iCloud.
• Sign in with your AppleID and password.
• Check all of the items you would like to sync.

• Go to settings and select iCloud
• Make sure account is signed in.
• Select apps you’d like to sync.

How to..

Go to Settings > iCloud > Storage and Back Up > switch on iCloud back up
For those that hate plugging in their phone to back it up, or just want instant security, the cloud auto backs up your phone when connected to wifi.

Go to Storage and Back up. You can see how much room you have left in your cloud. And if full it will tell you. You can buy more storage in “Buy More Storage”.

In Settings> iTunes &App Store you can select to automatically download music, apps, books and updates to other devices. Particularly handy across iphone and ipads.

Day to day
Sync your calendar and contacts (Settings>iCloud>turn on Calendar, Contacts) and you’ll never be without a phone number or miss a meeting.

Make sure you use..

Photo stream
The stream eliminates the need to muck around downloading pictures. You can also allow others access to your photo stream.

Find my iPhone
Yep. The saviour of all who are forever losing devices. Turn it on in Settings>iCloud>Find my iPhone and you can find and track your device or, if the worst case scenario happens, you can wipe the content instantly from your PC.

Settings >iBooks>sync Bookmarks, Collections
If you are reading a book or a document, reading lists syncs it between devices. So where you left your book on your iPad, you can pick it up again on your laptop or iPhone. It also means if you are reading an article online you can save it to your Safari browser via the cloud to access later – maybe while you are on the train.

Google Drive (formerly Google Docs)

Free storage: 15GB
Buy more: Plans go from $4.99 a month for 100GB to $799.99 a month for 16TB

A handy combination of storage and file creation, Google Drive is quickly becoming one of the top cloud services. It’s strength is in the amount of free storage available and the ability to work on documents with another user simultaneously.


Pros: Available in any platform, Google Drive combines the former Google Docs capabilities, such as text docs, spreadsheets and presentations, with storage. The platform also means you can work with colleagues on the same documents in real time.

Cons: There had been concerns about privacy, as if you are signed in and view public documents, others can see you are there.You have to make sure your privacy settings are on to keep your documents away from strangers.

Set it up

Sign into Google Drive with your Google account (or sign up for one for free).

You can also connect Google Drive to your desktop by following the prompts, and download the app for mobile so you can access all your files easily on the go.

How to..

After sign up it’s just a matter of creating Google files within the drive by clicking “CREATE” or uploading from your computer by clicking the ‘up’ arrow.  You can display icons in a list or in a grid by changing the view at the top of the browser.

Right click on the file you want to share, select ‘Share’ and then either email the document or share with another Google Drive user.

Make sure you use..

Sync your clouds Maybe your friends, or you, use Dropbox too. Google Drive has the ability to sync your cloud storage using CloudHQ if you are using Chrome. You can choose either one-or two-way sync, or you can do a one-time sync if you just want to move some files over.

Photo editing For photo editing on the go, download either Pixlr or PicMonkey (a simple user interface) to your Google Drive. Both photo editing apps can be opened directly from the right-click menu in Google Drive for any compatible image file.

Save to Google If you use Chrome, you can download an extension that lets you automatically save files to your Google Drive from anywhere on the web by right clicking and selecting from the pop-up menu.


Free storage: 2GB (but up to 16GB if you play along with the company’s refer a friend scheme)
Buy more: Pro – $99 per year for 100 GB. Business – plans for 1TB for five users (cost on application)

One of the first and most popular cloud storage devices, Dropbox acts like a digital suitcase. You can access it online anywhere, or through downloadable apps and desktop features. It’s easy to use and even easier to share files.


Pros: Available on every operating system Dropbox is seriously easy to use to store and share files.

Cons: There’s no ability to collaborate on the same document as others at the same time – meaning if two people open the same file, the one that saves first wins.

Set it up

Go to Download the desktop application and install. Set up account.

How to..

Sync files
Dropbox is available on computers, mobiles or tablets. As soon as you drop a file into the app, it’s instantly available everywhere else. Dropbox is a folder on your computer, as well as being accessible online. You drag and drop (or copy and paste if you don’t want to permanently move the file) from your computer into Dropbox.

You can share the contents of one folder with anyone, making it easy to transfer large files across the internet. To do this, place the files in the “public” folder and right click on the file or folder to access a public link.

Make sure you use

Worried about putting sensitive information in the cloud? Free service Boxcryptor protects your files across a range of platforms by encrypting them before they are uploaded. You can also use it for Google Drive.

Many apps have been developed to use the Dropbox interface. You can listen to music stored in your account through, or sync your iTunes library through drop box. Save info from all your social media, like a new Instagram, directly to your folders by using You can even turn your Dropbox into a website host, using programs like, which effectively turn a folder into a blog.

Photo mangement
You can sync your phone to automatically upload new images to Dropbox when connected. Inside Dropbox the program organises your pics by date.

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