What You Need to Know About Cloud Technology

A guide to those digital storage and streaming services that everyone's talking about

Cloud technology wants to revolutionize the internet by making it easier for users to access movies and TV shows on multiple devices.  

Despite the soft and fluffy name, the whole thing can sound a bit wonky. Here's our guide to the many shapes of these digi-clouds.

So what the hell is the “cloud?”

Replace “cloud” with the world “internet” and you’ll realize it's nothing too new.

Cloud services allow people to access their e-books, documents, movies and music online across multiple devices. But you've been doing it for years: e-mail and Facebook can be understood as clouds — a common space to update and share information.

For example, buy a song on iTunes on your Mac desktop, for example, and through its iCloud Apple will sync it with your iMac, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and any other device connected to your cloud.

Who’s doing it?

Apple, Amazon, and Best Buy, currently offer cloud-based services.

Google also offers a cloud, similar to its popular gmail services which are primarily focused on creating an multi-user online space for documents and messaging. Amazon, Apple, and Best Buy's clouds are more concerned with synching music and e-books to multiple devices. 

The most popular cloud service is Google Docs, which allows multiple people to view and edit documents with an online login. Motorola, the Huffington Post, and even the Wyoming state government have adopted Google’s applications.

Microsoft offers a similar service, Skydrive, which mostly focuses on office communications.

Who’s doing it best?

Best Buy’s music cloud jumped on the bandwagon a little late, and the reviews are terrible.

Amazon’s cloud has a fast, clear interface, but doesn’t allow for file sharing, according to PCmag.com. Apple’s iCloud is set to release in the Fall, with product reviews pending.

Most of the cloud based ecosystems are designed to keep users buying content from the companies behind them; Amazon wants you buying its books and storing them in its cloud and the same goes for Apple and iTunes.  

How much will it cost?

Apple and Amazon both offer the first 5GB free. You pay for extra space depending on the amount you need.

For Amazon, extra storage will cost roughly a dollar a GB per year, up to 1000GB (aka 1TB) for $1,000. SkyDrive gives you 25GB, while Google Docs proffers just 1GB, but its extra storage prices are more reasonable, ranging from $5 a year for 20GB to $256 a year for 1TB, according to PCmag.com.

How do I get it?

iCloud (previously known as MobileMe) is coming this Fall.

Amazon and Best Buy offer their services online, as well as Google and Microsoft, who offer a free trial.

Why all the hubbub?

The distinction between physical copies of music, movies and TV shows is quickly eroding. Blu-rays and DVDs may not be extinct, but more and more users are accessing content digitally. The big tech players have already previewed their cloud platforms, and it's only the beginning.