I tend to think of the word "cloud" in terms of cloud-decorated sunsets. Others may think of terrible thunderstorms or even tornadoes. But "cloud" has also taken on a high-tech meaning over recent years, as a label for online remote-access services.
With these services you can store files and data online in "the cloud" and then get access to the information from any device with an Internet connection. An added bonus is that you do not have to worry about losing files if your own hardware fails. These services are particularly useful on smartphones and tablets, offering ready access to files while on the go.
Box is one of my favorite cloud storage apps. It's a free download for iOS and Android, and the service is also available for PCs. The app is great to look at and its controls are clear, so it is easy to begin using it.
To upload a file, you click on a small cloud icon with a plus sign in it. The app offers the option to upload a file, like a photo or video, or to perform actions like creating a folder to organize files.
Viewing a file simply requires clicking on the relevant file name in the list of your files. You can print the file out, add it to a list of favorites, or perform other actions like sharing the file with other users by e-mail. Box is designed for group collaboration as much as for single users; you can invite colleagues to work together on a file through the service's Web interface.
Box is a powerful app, but it has a few limitations. There is no batch uploading, so be prepared to upload one file at a time. And the free service provides only five gigabytes of storage; no single file can be larger than 250 megabytes. You will have to pay for more storage -- the Business level costs $15 a month for each user, for example, but it offers one terabyte of space and file uploads of up to two gigabytes.
DropBox is perhaps the best-known cloud storage app. It looks similar to the Box app, but it has a little more functionality. It is available free for iOS, Android and BlackBerry devices, as well as for PCs and Kindle Fires. DropBox has more sharing options than Box, including the ability to send a link to a particular file over Facebook or Twitter, or as a text message.
DropBox also feels a little more polished than Box, probably because of its unfussy visual design. The app is integrated into a device's systems. It can automatically grab photos and videos when they are taken, so they are instantly stored safely in the cloud.
I prefer DropBox's iOS interface because its layout is clearer than the Android version, which tends to involve more clicking to navigate through its menus. In all cases, though, the app is easy to use and the company promises tight security to protect data. Perhaps the app's biggest limit is its pricing: it is free for just two gigabytes of files, which may be quickly eaten up by smartphone videos. Prices start at $10 a month for 100 gigabytes and greater.
Cubby, made by the people behind the well-known LogMeIn apps, offers even simpler cloud storage and sharing. It's free for iOS and Android. The app functions similarly to its rivals, but there are fewer menus and buttons to get in the way of using it.
The app can upload photos and video to your Cubby account from your phone. It includes a neat interface for making an individual file public, or to let you share a link to the file by e-mail. On the app's Web site you can upload and share more diverse file types, which can then be viewed on a mobile device. From the app, you can also choose to save a file to a device to work on it when an Internet connection is not available, which is handy for commuters.
Cubby does not have quite as many features as its rivals, but like the other apps it uses encryption, and an extra Cubby Lock password can be added to data for still more protection. The app is free for up to five gigabytes of storage -- 25 gigabytes with customer referrals -- and there is no limit on file sizes.
It's possible that you will find yourself using several of these apps and forgetting which files are where. Then you can turn to CloudMagic. It's a free iOS and Android app that aggregates many different cloud storage systems into one, including DropBox, Box and others like Google Docs and Microsoft's SkyDrive. The most powerful feature of CloudMagic is its search function, which helps find the file you're looking for.
Most of these services require you to sign up for an account; remember to keep your passwords secure to protect all your data as it floats in the cloud.
Fruit Ninja, a popular casual game on iOS and Android, is now available in an edition compatible with Microsoft's latest smartphone operating system, Windows Phone 8. It's silly, fun and costs only $1.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.