Tech Yourself: Keeping your head (and storage) in the cloud

I want to throw some numbers at you to illustrate how big of a difference there is in the physical size of carrying information

For as long as I can remember, people have been trying to carry more “stuff” with them. In terms of technology, this applies to the amount of information we can have access to at one time.

I’ve watched the transition from 5 1/4-inch floppy discs (1.2 MB storage capacity —  it’s been so long I had to look this up) to 3 1/2-inch floppy, to zip disc, and then on to USB drives. At every iteration, the physical media became smaller while the storage capacity increased.

I want to throw some numbers at you to illustrate how big of a difference there is in the physical size of carrying information.

A 3 1/2-inch floppy disk weighs roughly 20 grams and stores 1.44 MB of data. My personal cell phone right now is a Samsung Galaxy S3 that weighs in at 133 g, according to the manufacturer’s specifications. With my phone’s current setup, I have access to 110 GB of data storage. So, how much would 110 GB worth of floppy discs weigh? 1,526.8 kilograms, or a little more than two 1968 Austin Minis.

How did I get that much storage on my phone? The majority (62 GB) is stored in the cloud.

You may ask, “What is this cloud thing folks are talking about?” As an easy way to explain it is: anything stored on the internet is “in the cloud”. This storage format is something we have been using for a while in the form of web-based email like Hotmail and Gmail. In the last few years, the technology has been expanded to allow seamless transfer and storage of anything from pictures to text files.

I actually write Tech Yourself in Google Drive, a completely cloud-based program. From the same program, I forward the column via email to the editor, never actually having a physical copy.

Another great feature of some cloud storage programs is that they allow you to access a piece of physical hardware via the Internet. The 110 GB I have access to on my phone is nice, but what if I am out and about and I want to pull up something I have saved in the 4 TB (that’s 4000 GB) worth of data I keep on my desktop computer? Microsoft Skydrive combined with Windows 8 on my home PC allows me to do just that. And yes, most of that storage space on my PC is full.

Aaron Mackenzie is The Valley Echo’s technology columnist and the sales manager at The Source in Invermere. He can be reached at