What's the cloud?

Unbelievably naive question I know, but I don't know so I have to ask! I've just bought an iphone5. My first smart phone. I'll be using it in Europe this summer, and a lot of you have already given me a lot of help in response to my earlier post about using it instead of carrying paper hotel and train reservation confirmations with me, etc. My question now is: A lot of you have told me to save my reservations and other data I'd like to have at my fingertips in some sort of encrypted form in something like the cloud. OK, so I'm not TOTALLY ignorant, I've heard of the cloud, but I confess I haven't' a clue what you're talking about or what it is or how I'd use it or what it'd cost, yada yada yada Can anyone point me to a simple website that would explain it all to me in "old fart English"?

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7741 posts

A cloud simply means that your data is stored on a third-party's storage equipment somewhere else in the world accessed by the internet, as opposed to the memory that is built into your device. Yahoo Mail/Hotmail/Gmail is one type of cloud style service. All you have to do is email documents to yourself as attachments, and you can access them via a web browser. For larger files I like to use dropbox.com I believe they give you 2 gigabytes of free storage.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
24207 posts

Tom, As the previous reply mentioned, files stored in "the Cloud" are located in a Server somewhere rather than in the memory in your iPhone. There are several issues with this (IMO): 1.) Many providers charges an ongoing fee for the files stored. 2.) There may be a size limit (ie: 2GB) depending on the provider. If you want more space, you may have to pay for it. 3.) The most important issue is that you'll need to have internet service to access your files, either via 3G/LTE or Wi-Fi. That means you may not have access to them at all times. You need to be VERY CAREFUL with data roaming when travelling, as the costs can be HUGE (ie: five figures)! 4.) Files stored in "the Cloud" may not be entirely secure. Should the site be hacked or whatever, these could be accessible by others or they could be corrupted. I'm not comfortable with the concept of "the Cloud", and much prefer to buy an iPhone with the maximum amount of memory possible, and keep my files stored there. Happy travels!

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
14142 posts

With Apple it is icloud. It can be terrific as long as you have access via wifi (internet) and not 3 or 4G. Not sure where Easley is but if you have an Apple retail store near you, they will have free classes on using the icloud. Worth taking. You can download Apps that would store that same information on your iphone5 so that you do not need the internet to access it. That is what I would do.

Posted by Tom
Easley, SC, USA
291 posts

Thank you. one and all So as I understand it, the main issue in my mind is data security. I tend to be paranoid about that sort of stuff in any case, so that might tip the scale. I don't leave till late May, so I have some time to sort it all out. In the end, since I tend to prefer sitting on the patio with a glass of chillable red next to me, holding old fashioned pieces of paper with small black marks on them, which I'm skilled at interpreting (i.e., I can read), I'll probably opt for lugging the hard copies with me. But it helps to know what my options are!

Posted by Cindy H
San Jose
145 posts

Data Security is really controlled by the group running the server, and also by the person accessing the server. Both can breach the security. So yes, your provider is important, as some are more secure than others. It is also important to have a strong password. At least 8 characters (preferably 12) that are a combination of letters, numbers, special characters and caps/small. Try making up sentences: T0mIm@H0m3N0w The other side is making sure your data is encrypted as well as password protected. This is true for both your iPhone and on the internet. Most good internet providers encrypt data, but you need to check. Most good programs such as GoodReader also encrypt the data. That isn't true for some (not all) apps. Technically, internet based e-mail programs such as Gmail are "in the cloud". It is secure enough, just don't be stupid with your passwords. Security is an issue, but so is paper. That can be stolen too. Just like your credit card numbers can be stolen by an unscrupulous store keeper. For example, one way to get your password stolen is to go to an unscrupulous internet café that has key logging software to steal your password. The same could be done with an open WiFi connection. The big issue is losing your iPhone with your data in it. That is why you should keep your data in an encrypted password protected app. That is also why you should password lock your phone. But you would have the same sort of issues if you lost your wallet too. The problem with smart phones is that they usually contain more data than a wallet will. But really, the cloud is secure enough if you use the right provider and take precautions. http://www.howstuffworks.com/cloud-computing/5-ways-to-keep-your-information-secure-in-the-cloud.htm#page=0

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
24207 posts

While security of files may not be as much of a concern when using the "Cloud", the main issue for travel is that files may not be accessible except in Wi-Fi areas, for those that don't wish to pay for 3G / LTE cellular data roaming. Accessing large files via cellular data can add up very quickly! Cheers!

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

Here's my approach to data security, convenience, paper vs. digital, and the lot in terms of travel information. 1. I've emailed myself (GMail account) as an attachment, a PDF file which is a scan of my passport ID page, with an innocuous title, like "Car Maintenance List." 2. I NEVER carry documents, paper or digital, with my credit card numbers on them. I usually have a list somewhere - often in an email to myself - of the toll free numbers to call in case a card goes missing or anything suspicious shows up on my account. That's all you need; the CC issuer can verify your identity over the phone when you call in order to locate your account. 3. I don't see a need to keep my plane/hotel/itinerary details super-secret. I sometimes prepare a cheat sheet for myself with that info on it, and send it to a portable device (used to be my Kindle, now it's my smartphone) for easy access during the trip. Also it's in my emails if I need to access it while on the move. No CC, SSN, etc., info on it, needless to say. I usually carry a printout of it too. 4. Next time I go, I'll also have included my insurance (trip, medical, etc.) information in my trip info document: policy info, contact #s, etc. NOTE: You can download a copy of a document so that it's on your device, as well as having it stored somewhere like an email account "in the cloud." The advantage is that you can read it even if your phone/tablet/etc. is not connected to the internet. I do that with my trip cheat sheet, but don't download the passport scan document.

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
829 posts

Be sure to activate the passcode on your phone. Then if you lose it, it gets stolen, misplaced you can change setting on your phone to erase the data after x amount of wrong password. Go to Settings/General/Passcode Lock-"turn Passocde On"- decide if 4 digits "simple" is enough- if not turn simple passcode off- and you could have a many digit passcode. Erase data is at the bottom of the menu.
These settings should eliminate your concerns.

Posted by Cindy H
San Jose
145 posts

Just a note that I use the cloud as a backup to the data stored in my phone. This is "just in case" something happens to the phone. Normally I access the files I stored on my phone with data encryption software such as "GoodReader". GoodReader works off line, so the statement about roaming charges really doesn't apply. The cloud is for when something really goes wrong and I'm now working off of my backup plan. I would go to an internet café and pull the data down from there because something horrid happened to my phone. But do create a passcode to lock your phone. Another thing I did was modify the entry on my lock screen to show my contact info in case the phone was lost. It had my land line in the US and my e-mail.

Posted by Paul
Tuscaloosa, AL
891 posts

If you use a gmail account, the default now is for the connection from your phone or computer to gmail to be encrypted (http s appears is on the address line of your browser). Although this SSL encryption isn't 100 percent unbreakable, it is still fairly secure for normal use. So you can email something to yourself and it will be only accessible over an encrypted connection if you sent it through gmail and only read it on gmail. It will never travel "in the open" where others can read it. I do keep certain information on my phone in case I can't get an Internet connection when needed. I have purchased an app that encrypts that information. It makes me a little nervous to have it on my phone, but it sure is convenient. Just be sure the data is encrypted. Protecting it with a password is probably not secure enough.