It's amazing how quickly things change. A few short years ago cloud computing - getting everything from software to songs and soap operas from faraway servers - was just a buzzword, but now everybody's at it.

We're tuning into Netflix for the final episodes of Breaking Bad, catching up on Luther via iPlayer and streaming music via Spotify - and increasingly, we're using the cloud to store our stuff too.

Cloud computing isn't a new concept - it's been around since the 1960s - but its rise was limited by one crucial factor: connectivity. Storing everything in the cloud is a great idea, but it's not much cop if your connection isn't up to scratch or if you can't get online at all.

Thankfully for most of us the days of dial-up modems and crappy GPRS mobile connections are long gone, and our connections are fast enough and reliable enough to make the cloud part of our everyday lives.

It happens so often we're barely aware of it. Uploading smartphone snaps to your photo stream, to Facebook or to Flickr? You're using the cloud. Checking webmail? Cloud. Twitter? Cloud. Getting ebooks for your Kindle? Cloud.

Daily operation

It's quite possible to do all your everyday computing in the cloud, and there's even specialist hardware to do it: Google's ultra-cheap Chromebooks, which the firm describe as "a new model of computing", run an operating system that's little more than a web browser.

With cloud computing all the important stuff happens online, and that means cloud computing's as happy on a titchy tablet or a smartphone as it is on a traditional desktop or laptop PC.

That represents a massive change in the way we use our devices. Our data used to be stuck on a single machine, our music, games and music only playable if we had the discs handy. Now, our data and media is accessible everywhere.

We used to buy software that was tied to a single computer. Now, we can work or play from anywhere there's an internet connection.

We used to need high-powered hardware to get the most from software. Now, the speed we need isn't in the processor, but in the link between us and our ISP.

Easy does it

The big benefit of that is convenience. Take Netflix, for example: its cloud-based media streaming goes wherever you go, so you can watch a programme or film on your PC, on your tablet, on a Smart TV or via a cloud-connected Blu-Ray or DVD player, or on your phone.

You can create a document in Google Drive on a PC or Mac (or Chromebook) and access it from any other computer, or via a smartphone or tablet app. You can save a document to Dropbox and access it from anywhere.

The future of computing is clearly cloud-y, and the giants of tech haven't been slow to notice. Google was an early adopter, of course, but Amazon was quick to spot the potential too - and today its cloud services power everything from Amazon's own music and movie streaming to banks' online offerings.

Microsoft uses the cloud for online entertainment and the mighty Microsoft Office, and Apple has iCloud for its Macs and iOS machines. The most recent survey by Strategy Analytics reports that 27% of US consumers have used iCloud, 17% Dropbox, 25% Amazon Cloud Drive and 10% Google Drive; smaller players such as Samsung and LG, who offer their own cloud services, account for two to three percent each.

However, more than half of those surveyed had never used any kind of cloud storage service, and that means there's a huge market that's still wide open.

The Strategy Analytics report had another interesting statistic to share: 90% of Apple, Amazon and Google cloud users store music - and even Dropbox, which isn't marketed as a music service, is used for music by 45% of its users. As SA director of digital media Ed Barton said: "Music is currently the key battleground in the war for cloud domination."

Should you keep your music in iTunes, or embrace Amazon? Would your world domination plans be best stored on SkyDrive, or whatever its new name will be (it's just been sued by Rupert Murdoch over the "Sky" bit), in iCloud or Google Drive?

What's best for your family photos and memories of your big nights out? Can a single cloud provider cater for your every need? Let's find out.