5 reasons we can no longer live without the cloud

Netflix. Spotify. Office 365 - these are a few of the cloud-based technologies that have become part of our everyday lives...

Until a few years ago a cloud was something white and fluffy that lived in the sky. Now we use it to manage our music collections and listen to tunes, watch TV and films and crack on with work.

Microsoft defines the cloud as "places on the internet where you can save all sorts of information such as photos, music, documents and videos".

And we believe it lines up alongside the laptop, mobile phone, internet, tablet and Facebook list of tech innovations we can no longer live without.
Here are five reasons why.

1) We can do things from pretty much anywhere on any device

Using Tablet In Cafe

Whether watching a TV show, listening to your favourite band or catching up on work, with the cloud you can do it from pretty much anywhere.

These days we don't just have one device - we have a laptop at home, a tablet for on the go and a smartphone. The cloud lets us share files across the lot, from wherever.

Finish a report you started in the office on your home laptop. Watch an episode of Breaking Bad on your lunch break. Listen to the new Arctic Monkeys album on the bus with your smartphone.

2) It's revolutionised how we store and listen to music  


Back in the day music collections were tangible things: CDs and vinyl records you could hold, feel and smell (if you were that way inclined). This then gave way to downloadable electronic files, which had no physical form yet clogged our hard drives.

Now we have the cloud, where we can store and stream music directly from the web.

The most well-known of these services is probably Spotify. For a small monthly subscription you can stream millions of songs live or download to your Spotify account to listen to whenever.

Then there's iCloud - the stuff of dreams for the Apple fanboy. With it anything you purchase from the iTunes store, App Store or iBooks will be available across all your Apple devices.

Great if you have an iPhone for on the go and a Apple MacBook at home.

3) It gave us Netflix, baby

Netflix I Pad UI

With more than 44 million members, Netflix has changed how we watch TV.

With it we watch what we want, when we want - with thousands of TV show episodes and films to stream to our laptops, tablets and smart TVs.

And because you can watch it on your tablet with the headphones in, you can stay in the same room while others watch EastEnders on the regular TV - a good shout if you're watching Breaking Bad when the grandparents are round for tea, perhaps?

The rise of tablets and cloud streaming services such as Netflix and the BBC iPlayer have freed us from the TV schedules, and we've lapped it up.

So it's no wonder Ofcom revealed the living room has been transformed into a "digital media hub" where people watch TV while browsing the web or streaming other content on their smartphone or tablet.

4) It's helped us work wherever we want

Office _365_Co -Authoring _Web

Not so long ago if you didn't have your work finished by 5pm in the office you were staying behind for a lonely few hours with a ready meal. Then the cloud came along with a much more favourable option - finishing it on the sofa.

With SkyDrive cloud storage service on Microsoft's Office 365 you can leave the office and crack on again at home after dinner. Simply save whatever you were doing on your work PC to your SkyDrive account, then pick up the exact same document in the exact same place on your own laptop.

When buying or subscribing to Office 365 you'll receive a chunk of SkyDrive storage for free. 

Then there's Microsoft Web Apps. These are versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint that are designed to be worked in as well as saved online. This means you and several colleagues can all work on the same document from your own sofas and kitchen tables, editing, updating and arguing about it.

Stuck on a machine without Word?  With your Office 365 login you can even stream full versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and others to a PC running Windows 7 or later.

5) With it we'll play PlayStation games without a PlayStation

PS4 Controller

Gaming used to be pretty straightforward. To play a PlayStation game you had to own a PlayStation. The cloud has changed all that though, with Sony announcing that people will soon be playing PlayStation games without the console.

Subscribers to PlayStation Now will be able to stream PlayStation games to Sony's new Bravia television sets initially, but it will later be extended to smartphones and tablets. This service is set to launch in the US in the summer, but a European launch date is not yet known.

Are you a cloud newbie or established cloud user? Tell us what you use cloud for in the comments below...