The “Cloud” is a broad term that encompasses many different technologies.

When someone refers to the “Cloud,” they may be referring to file storage or collaborative documents, among other things.

But fundamentally, the “Cloud” is just another computer mediating a task that is typically impossible for a personal device to complete alone. So, depending on the situation, the computer acting as the “Cloud” will be a different machine contingent on which cloud service is being used. In other words, the computers used for cloud file storage will likely be different than those involved with collaborative documents and so forth.

One of the most common uses of the Cloud is file storage. Many people use Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive), Box, or one of the other numerous cloud storage solutions. For example, the University of Oklahoma has cloud-based file storage available for its Desire2Learn users (called “Locker”). Essentially, these services replace the need for flash drives or emailing documents to yourself, subsequently streamlining the file transfer process. Cloud file storage systems are also ideal instruments for copying files to and from your computer and mobile devices, as well as sharing files amongst peers. Because of the many ways you can use cloud file storage, it’s an excellent tool for synchronizing your files between several devices and people.

See an example of Dropbox in action here.

One of the more unique applications of the Cloud is its ability to host collaborative documents. Google Docs and iCloud Documents are two prominent softwares that use cloud-based technology. Through these services, documents can be edited by multiple users at a time from different computers. So, for example, you might need to write a paper with other colleagues from universities in different states and can’t get together in person because of the distance. In this case, you could use cloud-based software to get your paper done since it allows concurrent editing by multiple people. Similarly, there’s no faster way for a dozen people to enter data into the same spreadsheet than with cloud-based documents. With collaborative documents, there’s no longer a need to produce multiple, fragmented versions of a document with each part written by a different person when all users can participate in editing one document collaboratively. All of this—and more—is possible with cloud-based document technologies.

See an example of iCloud Documents in action here.

I adamantly believe that cloud file storage and collaborative documents can help improve your productivity by both eliminating wasted time and increasing your cooperative engagement with others.

Did I mention that all of the cloud services in this post are also free?

I would encourage you to create accounts with the cloud services you wish to try and start sharing and collaborating with your colleagues.

Whether you use the Cloud to sync all of your files across devices or to write papers with colleagues from other universities, there is no doubt that the Cloud connects people in many beneficial ways.

Have questions? Leave a comment below or tweet me directly at @CraZyIriShman7