The personal computer has been around for decades, and through the years, it has proven its invaluable worth to the everyday user time and again. As time goes on, however, our lives only seem to get busier, and this increase in everyday mobility is leaving older forms of personal computing behind in the dust (we’re looking at you especially, desktops). Most of us can recall at least one event where we’ve been out and about—let’s say a meeting, interview, class, etc.—but we’ve forgotten to bring that important document or spreadsheet with us on the go. What’s worse, it probably never made it off the laptop or desktop.
Fortunately for us, in the age of cloud computing, problems like these can be a thing of the past. It’s hard to come across someone without a smartphone these days, and for good reason. However, most people don’t realize they’re carrying around a personal computer in their pockets all day simply because we don’t think about it; generally speaking, we consider phones to be telecommunications and entertainment devices. What people don’t realize is that they’re holding a personal gateway to the cloud where they can access files, share printers, or even completely control their home computers all from one tiny device.
While the possibilities are nearly endless, let’s stick with the basics for now: accessing our home computer’s files from our phones. Regardless of whether your phone runs Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, or Microsoft’s Windows Phone, the process is incredibly streamlined, allowing anyone and everyone to setup cloud storage and file sharing.
Perhaps the most well-known of the Big Three’s cloud platforms, Google Drive is your best friend if you’re an Android user. Built-in natively with most modern Android phones, this cloud platform is as easy to use as any other—all you need is a Google/Gmail account, which you probably already have if you have an Android. On your desktop or laptop, download and install Google Drive, then sign in with your Google account. Setup is very simple, and it will automatically create a Drive folder for you. As long as you have an internet connection, any and every file you put in this folder will be automatically uploaded to your very own cloud storage drive, where it is remotely accessible from any device you connect with your Google account. On your phone now, if you don’t already have Google Drive, download it for free on the Play Store, and sign in with the same Google account.
That’s it! If you’ve already saved files to your computer’s Drive folder, you’ll start to see those appear on your phone’s Drive folder as well. Just as your phone grabs files from your desktop, your desktop can grab files from your phone through this shared folder as well.
Now built into iOS 9, Apple’s iCloud Drive is no different from Google Drive, and setup is just as easy. Instead of a Google account, you’ll be using your iCloud address. iPhones running iOS 9 will already have iCloud Drive enabled, but you can launch the app to tweak its settings how you like. To access files on your home computer, the process varies slightly between Mac and Windows computers, but you can download and find excellent, detailed instructions straight from Apple. For the most part, your Mac is probably already enabled as well, so all you’ll need to do is start using your iCloud Drive. For Windows users, download the installer, and it will integrate with Windows the same way Google Drive does.
Easily the most streamlined of the three, Microsoft’s OneDrive will already be installed on your Windows Phone regardless of you’re running 7, 8/8.1, or 10. For Windows PCs, OneDrive will be built-in for 8.1 and 10, but 7 users can download OneDrive directly from Microsoft’s website. Make sure both your phone and your desktop/laptop are signed in with the same Microsoft account, and the installer will create a new folder just like Google Drive or iCloud Drive did. From here, the process is the same as any other: just upload files you want to backup or share, and any other device linked with your Microsoft account can access them.