Illustration of cloud computingHave you ever wanted to have access to any of your files from a different location, on any computer? With today’s trending technology you now can. Since Apple announced the emergence of iCloud, I started to ponder some of my favorite “cloud” technologies.

What is this cloud business all about?

The “cloud” is a remote host of servers that can house your documents, pictures, music and files. For the end user the accessibility is easy. After your account is created at these various cloud services you have the ability to upload files of choice. Many of these services have a free entry level of up to 2 gigabytes (or gigs) of storage space. After you surpass the 2-gig cap, you will then be asked if you want to pay for bigger amounts of storage.

One of these types of services that works for both Macs and Windows users is Drop Box, which gives you 2 gigs free upon sign-up. With your user name and password you can access your Drop Box account from any machine. Drop Box will sync with all machines that you install the client on. So if you had three machines in your house and uploaded something new to your Drop Box folder, all three machines will sync with that new information on the fly. You can also access the information with your phone with the handy Drop Box App that works for iPhones and Androids alike. Think of the ease of accessing your files from the tap of your phone.

One of the biggest cloud services out there right now is Google Docs and it’s a free service. With Google Docs you can not only store your documents on Google’s servers, but you can also create your documents with the Google Docs for business applications. With Google Docs you can import your local documents and create new documents that you can save directly to the cloud.  Once you create a Google Mail account you will then have access to Google Docs. With Google Docs you’ll have 1 gig of free storage for files you don’t convert into one of the Google Docs formats.

Windows Live comes from Microsoft. Upon creation of a Windows Live account you will have access to a whopping 25 gigs of free space. There is also a free web version of the standard Microsoft Office Suite. You can create a Word, Excel or a PowerPoint presentation all on the web, and save it to your “Sky Drive.”  It is your Sky Drive that houses all of your documents. Like Google Docs you can also upload local documents and access them from anywhere on any computer.

These services are just the tip of the iceberg as far as “cloud technologies.”  Services like will give you 2 gigs free to upload your favorite music. Once you upload 2 gigs of your favorites songs (which is roughly 500 tunes), you can listen to them from any computer and phone.

I encourage you to research what is out there. Cloud technology will only expand in the next five years. There are thousands of services with many more developing.

Ralph Carbonell is the Technology Help Desk Technician for the Illinois Association of REALTORS®.