Cloud computing is no longer the future – it's here. Chances are you already use web-based email, store some or all of your music, photos or videos online, or even just stream your televisual entertainment to your living room straight from the internet.
We are slowly being encouraged to store less and less of our content on our own hard drives, and instead entrust it to the servers of a few corporate giants.
Whether you're uploading photos and movies to Facebook, videos to YouTube, saving and sharing work in Google docs, downloading music using your iTunes account or reading books using your Kindle, your details and data are mainly held in the cloud, and it's a revolution that's growing.
It's going to affect you in other ways too, as more and more companies – and even governments and councils – are considering using cloud computing to provide the hosting and compute power for their services.
Using the cloud is often cheaper, more adaptable and surprisingly, more reliable than running their own servers. Even a couple of years ago, cloud services were seen as something not to be trusted as a substitute for your own backups, but now the world is embracing cloud computing as never before.
From the office to the sofa, the cloud is powering our document creations tools, our calendars, our address books and even our viewing and gaming experiences, and with the advent of high-speed broadband allowing apps to handle ever more involved processes and deliver them to us on low-powered devices, it doesn't take a lot of future-gazing to see that online is the future.
There is a new revolution coming to cloud computing as well – the entertainment revolution. This year has seen many companies competing to offer cloud services to buy, store and stream your entertainment collections for you. You aren't just backing up your content to the cloud – you often haven't downloaded it at all.
Amazon, Apple and Google want to store your music, films and books on their cloud servers, and will let you stream them to your internet-connected devices. All you need is your browser to get to all your entertainment services wherever you are.
So which company should you turn to for your cloud computing services? Where should you entrust your beloved music, films and book collections? And what else are these companies planning in the future to make your life more secure, easier and stress-free?
We've taken a close look at four major players in the burgeoning field of personal cloud services – Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Google – and asked which one is for you, or will be soon.