Laptops and tablets with storage of 64 GB or less are becoming more common.

The use of an optical drive (CD or DVD) is quickly becoming unnecessary.

More businesses are becoming hotspots and more communities are becoming Wi-Fi communities.

What does this mean for the average user who still needs to install programs or save data? Enter “the cloud.”

Before we can discuss the uses, benefits and different cloud products, we need to define the cloud. “Cloud” is a marketing term given to the new phenomenon of saving data somewhere other than your own computer.

Each company with cloud products has a farm of computers, meaning rooms or buildings full of servers and hard drives. When a user creates an account with one of the cloud companies, the user gets allocated space on one of these servers.

When the user saves a file, it is uploaded to the server that holds said allocated space. Therefore, using the cloud is the act of saving data to a computer other than your own.

There are many benefits to using the cloud for storing your data. All data that is stored on the cloud server is accessible from any of your devices, from anywhere with an Internet connection.

Files and data can be shared with friends or family. Important documents and presentations can be shared with colleagues that can collaborate and even edit your documents.

Take tons of pictures, put them in the cloud, send a link to your friends or family members, and, almost instantly, they can see them all. Try that with email.

Several companies offer online cloud storage. Microsoft’s OneDrive gives you 15 GB of storage for free. You can get 15 gigs more if you allow your camera roll to back up to the cloud, and an additional 5 GB for referring 10 friends.

One advantage for OneDrive is the free use of Office Online. It is easy to use. Simply copy and paste the files to a local OneDrive folder and up it goes.

Amazon’s Cloud Drive offers users two options. The first option is free for Prime members and $16.99 a year for everyone else. It offers unlimited photo storage and 5 GB of videos and files. You can upgrade to unlimited everything for $59.99 a year. A desktop program or app is used to upload files.

Dropbox seems to lead the pack of online storage solutions. Dropbox gives only 2 GB of storage for free. You can upgrade to the Pro plan and get a full terabyte (1,000 GB) of storage for $9.99 a month.

Dropbox allows you to share folders with other people and easily move files in and out of that shared folder. Other services require that you use their online web interface in order to look at or use shared files. This makes it much easier for colleagues and family to edit and share files back and forth.

Use one of these solutions or all of them. The possibilities are endless.

Kevin Sekula is owner of Lowcountry Computer Guy in Bluffton.