I spend a lot of time investigating the history of tiny houses and where we – as a community – might have gotten this notion that we can survive in a space less than the typical American bathroom (which, by the way, averages 160 sq.ft.). I augment that time frame of research and argument with the supposition we – as humans – can live almost anywhere. That is why I am pleased to announce today that I have recently moved to a cloud. Yes, you heard me right. I have moved to a cloud.
photo courtesy of David Gildeh
So maybe that isn’t totally true. Or rather maybe that isn’t what it sounds like. In fact, it is so ridiculous to say out loud that I am not even going to continue the metaphor. The idea is this. In order to free so much of my life (physical space, mail box, office, etc) I have made the full transition to being paper free. I say full transition because in the past I have moved small amounts of media from hard drive to external drive and then external drive to DVD and now DVD/hard format (disc, print, mail, etc) to logic pools that exist only on a hosted server. Like many others though I have exhibited some trepidation in doing so.
What if their server crashes? How do I just view a photo to print it? Is my laptop useless now?
Burying The Doubt
I want to quickly and efficiently debunk the cloud myth once and for all (and this is how I explained it to my mother just last week). Do you use Gmail? (she responds, “Yes. You set it up for me, remember?) Okay so where is your email then? Where does it live beyond the ‘Reply’ and ‘Move To Trash’ buttons? (she hesitates but then responds “It lives right there in Gmail, I guess.”) Exactly. If you have a Gmail account (or Yahoo or Hotmail or AOL or almost anything else) then you have already been building your house in the cloud. Your email is “in the cloud,” which means you can access it anywhere you have an internet connection. The same can now be done with all of your files and once done means you can downsize your personal computing device, give away your desk, dispose of the file cabinet, make garden mobiles out of old CDs and DVDs, and discontinue your iPhoto backup.
And you want to do this again because? You want to do it because you know someone personally whose computer has died on them or been attacked by the latest virus and taken data with it. Remember Aunt Judy’s 81st birthday? Glad you do because the photos you took are gone for good! Oh, and how about those Saturday mornings you decide are good for a little house cleaning so you pop in some classic Rod Stewart and make light work of both the cobwebs and the broom cum microphone stand. Distant memory now. Oh, and the cobwebs are back! How about that spreadsheet you did for work? You know. The one with 7 tabs and over 3000 cells of data? Its loss is more tragic than the finale of La Boheme. You can avoid all of that by storing files in the cloud. Losing any file in a hard drive crash should be little more than a laugh line in a 90’s sitcom by now.
When you store your data in the cloud a number of additional benefits lay at your fingertips.
- You can easily switch or add/subtract devices
- You can access your files from a tablet or smartphone
- You can save money on buying alternative backup devices and media devices
- You can access your data from another persons computer
- You can access data while traveling
- You can share files with others by just sending a friendly URL
- You don’t have to worry if your computer is stolen or broken
- You can easily switch to a new computer
Keep It In Mind
Before you completely commit to becoming my neighbor and building your tiny house (of data) in the clouds you may want to consider a few things first.
- Security/Encryption. Always read the privacy policies when creating an account. If your data is extra sensitive you may want to look into encryption or a password generation program such as 1Password.
- Availability. If you are even think you are going to have to access your data without an Internet connection you need to find a service that offers some sort of offline mode or you need to continue storing data on an actual hard drive of some sort (and resume those risks.)
- Pricing. Most cloud systems cost a nominal fee each month. A number of them do come with ways to increase your storage without paying though. For instance I was able to triple my Dropbox capacity just by inviting others to join and sharing the service on social media platforms. All in all cloud storage is still cheaper than any of my external hard drives were.
- Optical drives disappeared. If you think that cloud storage is a fad and you can keep on using your disks and hard drives as you always have I beg you to look at a laptop made in the last two years and point to the optical drive. Chances are there isn’t one. Hard storage is a think of the past. Soon you will have no options left.
I will not for a second pretend it is easy to make the total transition to the cloud. Emotions and sentiment often get the best of us and make us keep old disks and such. Coming to terms with a changing digital landscape is hard and letting go of the physical proof is even harder. But if I know anything about the tiny house movement it is this.
1. We go tiny because we just don’t want or need all that space. But with that space goes storage. It hurts at first but feels oh, so good later on. Look at the DVDs and CDs and such you have now. Imagine getting that space back because you no longer have that media? Nice, right?
2. We believe in sustainable living. We believe in organic living. We don’t want to leave this Earth worse than even we found it. All of the packaging involved in DVDs and CDs and hard drives is little more than physical pollution
Are you convinced? Will you be moving in next door? Will we be neighbors in the cloud?