Clouds store data as well as rain and snow – what the data cloud and Dropbox is all about in simple terms.

Computer Corner

What is the cloud?

This is a question that is not on everyone’s lips, unless they are executives in large companies or in the IT industry, but more and more people are wondering what it is all about.

Basically it is both just another word for having your computer servers in another location and run by other people and a new system for having others own and provide the software for running the programs in your business.

Those of you with a Google Gmail address are using the “cloud” for their email. Those who use Gmail and who are a little more adventurous, will have noticed they can write documents whether on a word processor, a spreadsheet or a power-point type of presentation, all within their Gmail account.

In addition, you can store your diary, your photographs, and even have a website up there. What’s more, for the individual reader, this is all free and if you have a computer crash and haven’t backed up – it will still all be there on the cloud.

There is no danger of losing the data on Google as if they lost your data, the entire Google empire would collapse.

This, then, is your basic introduction to the cloud. Although there are companies such as Amazon and other big players which offer cloud facilities for larger companies, if you understand what is available in Gmail, you should have a very good idea of what the cloud is all about.

We, at the Finchley Arrow, use a more professional version of Gmail called “Google Apps”. This allows us to embody our email, document processing etc. all under our own domain of By using this in an organisation where everyone works from home, if anyone gets a virus, or has a crash, and hasn’t backed up, the newspaper can carry on as everything is situated on the cloud.


There is another organisation’s product I am slowly rolling out to all our people, and this is also on the cloud. It is called Dropbox. Dropbox is a simple product which, when you download it, attaches itself to your file lister or explorer (Windows Explorer if you use Windows) and when you drag a file to it, it saves it on the cloud. What makes this product so valuable is that you can share a file with others if you send them a permanent link, or even a complete folder.

We intend to set up two folders to be shared by all of the team. When they write an article, all they need to do is drop it in the folder marked FA-Copy and it will immediately appear in my box. We will have another folder called FA-Photos and our picture editor will have access to that folder. If I want to share a folder with my friend in South Africa, he will only see the folder I share with him; he will not see the two newspaper folders.

Dropbox gives users two gigabytes free and if I recommend anyone, they will not only give me an extra 256MB, but they will also give the person I recommend an extra 256MB as well. I have already built up to four free gigabytes. There will be a link below which will allow you to get the two gigabytes free, and also the extra 256MB.

If you want to store all your data on Dropbox, then the prices are pretty reasonable. Pro 50 (50GB) costs $99 a year, and Pro 100 (100GB) is $199 a year. Bear in mind that these are in US Dollars which, at the time of writing, work out at £60.78 and £122.17 respectively. I am seriously thinking about subscribing to the Pro 50 service.

The service is available for Windows, Mac and Linux users and they also have mobile apps for smartphones.

Finally, go to if you not only want to download the free Dropbox application so you can use the free two gigabytes of storage, but want the extra 256mb for using the Finchley Arrow link.

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