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(BPT) - News headlines, commercials and chatter between colleagues - recently there has been a lot of hype around "the cloud," but the term can be complex and confusing. What exactly is the cloud, and furthermore, what does it mean for you and the way you use technology? Although the concept feels relatively new, it's simpler than you may think.
You've probably heard a lot about storing and sharing information on the cloud, but did you know there's a good chance you're already utilizing the cloud regularly without even knowing it? Every time you check or send an email online, you're sending information through the cloud, in other words, through a network of servers, software and services in a remote location.
Much like connecting your television to a cable connection, you connect your tech device to the Internet to access content stored in the cloud. When you use cloud storage, what you can do with your technology devices - from desktop to tablet to smartphone - expands greatly.
The cloud isn't just for tech elites - it can make life easier no matter how tech-savvy you are. Whether you're heading a global conglomerate or are simply the head of your kid's soccer team, the cloud can help streamline what you need to do online. Beyond checking email, the cloud lets you work with other people online with documents that can be edited simultaneously, store large files so you don't have to keep them on hand, and easily access and share important photos and personal documents, like travel plans.
There are two simple ways you can start seeing the many benefits of the cloud immediately. First, personal cloud email services make staying in touch with friends, family, and professional contacts easy. Is it time you upgraded your email experience? Outlook.com is a free, personal email service from Microsoft that has tools to keep your email streamlined.
With Outlook.com you can access easy-to-use, automated tools to help you get through your inbox quickly. Set up your preferences that mirror how you live your life: bills can automatically go in one folder, important documents archived in another. You can even "sweep" out all of your old daily deals or newsletters with just a few clicks.
Spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter or other social media websites? Outlook.com works with your favorite social media sites. You can add contacts from your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other networks, so that changes like address updates in those accounts are automatically updated. You can save time and energy by chatting, updating, and even posting comments or accepting friend requests in a few clicks all from your inbox.
The second way you can experience instant benefits from the cloud is through a personal cloud storage service. Microsoft's SkyDrive provides 7 GB of free storage which is more than what most competitors offer, and additional storage is available at rates that are also lower than most competitors. Outlook.com and SkyDrive work together, and SkyDrive works with your smartphone, tablet, PC, or Mac, so you have access to your photos, documents, and other important files anytime, anywhere, automatically.
Do you ever have a ton of photos you want to email to a friend, but you can't because the files are too large to send all in one email? Or sometimes you just want to share those photos with specific people instead of to everyone on Facebook. Just upload the photos to SkyDrive and email the link to the people you choose! You can share photos beautifully only with the people you choose, without taking up space in their inboxes.
Another invaluable benefit to personal cloud storage services is the ability to work with others on projects from anywhere at any time. With SkyDrive, you get free Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote in your browser, so multiple people in different places can work on the same document, at the same time. Plus, you get to choose who can view and edit these documents.
No matter how simple or complex your computing needs, the cloud can help keep you more organized, -save time, save space in your inbox or on your desktop, and sometimes it just plain saves you from losing an important document or email. Learn more about how the cloud can change the way you use technology by visiting www.outlook.com and www.skydrive.com.
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