Over the past few decades technology has dramatically changed day-to-day living. How we manage finances, shop, travel, consume news, and communicate have all been completely transformed.
The expat experience benefits enormously from these advances, the best of which launched only recently.
Of these, Cloud Services is one of the most significant offerings that make expat life nearly seamless.
Many of us have unknowingly used it for years. While sending and receiving emails from one of the major online services (Google Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Microsoft Hotmail, Apple iCloud) you’ve been using what is primarily a cloud service.
For example, if you delete your email account (sounds crazy!) you can easily recover. Everything, received and sent, is stored on computers called email servers at a remote location. You simply log in to your account and voila! like magic, your device synchronizes and every email reappears as before. This ability has been expanded to include nearly everything on your device (contacts, documents, calendar, applications).
This is of particular importance for a number of scenarios:
- Your phone is lost/stolen/broken.
- You have multiple devices (phone/tablet/computer) and want to share the same info across all of them.
- You want to use another computer temporarily like at a hotel or internet cafe (be extra careful when doing this for security reasons).
In all of these cases, when you log in everything appears as you left it, independent of which device you’re using.
The primary choices are:
- Apple iCloud
- Microsoft Office365
These platforms have evolved into fully integrated work environments with email, file storage, office suite applications, web-browser, a news feed, voice/video communications and more.
Over time I’ve found the complimentary 5GB data storage limit of Apple iCloud to be somewhat of a deterrent from expanding my use of the Apple environment (admittedly the jump to 50GB is a paltry $0.99/mo). In spite of this, I find the Apple iOS interface to be one of the most secure and user-friendly. I also love the reliability of my iPhone.
The joy of unlimited photos
Google Drive offers 15GB and unlimited photos so I find myself spending more time there since it seamlessly replicates the same environment on all devices (including iPhone/iPad). Mobile devices based on Android have this Google platform fully integrated.
Android devices also have the ability to add extra memory (phone and tablet) not possible in Apple products.
Like Apple iOS, Android continues to evolve. I like what I see and find that recent Android updates have closed the gap with iOS considerably.
We use a Moto x4 Android phone for international travel which has been an excellent device for nearly everything we do on the road.
Another excellent option is Microsoft MS365 Office. For $99/yr you get a five-user license for full Microsoft Office on any device. Each user gets 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage (that’s huge!) plus 60 min/mo of Skype calls to any phone in over 100 countries. This is particularly effective for families like ours who want to stay connected.
The ability to share documents in Cloud applications is a great advantage when working together. My wife and I are writing a lot these days and actively share our work in Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides. We just need to watch for when we’re editing at the same time to maintain our marital bliss.
You will use public WiFi a lot when using these services, so having a secure connection when accessing your private cloud information is really important. We will review digital security in a future column.
Remember that the value is not in your devices but in your content. Cloud Services allow you to protect and easily recover the valuable information and memories vital to managing your expat journey.
Let us know what technology works best for you and how it liberates you to fully enjoy expat life!
by: Michael Wagner