I’ve gotten a lot of downright panicky questions from readers about the cloud connectivity in Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. Many of you say you don’t want to be connected with the cloud in any way. Do you remember the old commercial for Palmolive where the manicurist is extolling the virtues of Palmolive dish detergent and how great it is, and then tells the customer, “You’re soaking in it!?” The thing with the cloud is that you’re already there whether you like it or not, so you might as well take advantage of what it has to offer you.

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First let’s talk about what I mean when I talk about “The Cloud.” Obviously it’s not a real cloud, it means a network of off-site computer servers that store, process and share information. These servers are connected to each other and you via the Internet.

You’ve already got quite a lot of information in the cloud. If you have e-mail, your messages are stored in the cloud. Even if you download them from the server to an e-mail client and then delete the from the server, they still spend all of the time after leaving the sender sitting in the cloud. And just because you delete your copy from the server, doesn’t mean the sender’s copy isn’t still there in the cloud.

Your banking information, medical records, government records, tax records… basically everything is stored on off-site servers. For better or worse, cloud computing is here to stay. But it has its advantages.

If you use a device like a smartphone, tablet or even a Kindle and something happens to it, you can replace it and instantly download all of your apps, e-mails, messages, music, e-books and photos to your new device. If you’ve backed up your contacts, you can have all of those again in an instant.

Cloud accounts are a great way to back up and share documents and images. In this series of articles, I’m going to show you how to make the cloud work for you.

Tomorrow, we’ll check out how you can get free cloud storage, so you can try it out without spending a penny.

~ Cynthia