The Digital Divide: Leveraging Your PC to Manage Your Media Collection

Most of us have songs, videos, and pictures sitting on our hard drives. It’s taking up space, and it’s not being used when we’re out and about, enjoying life. But, did you know that most of this content can be streamed directly to your smartphone or tablet (or other device)? It’s like having your computer with you wherever you go. Here’s how to do it.

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Make Sure Your Computer Is Up To The Task

You’ll need a computer running at least Windows 7, if you’re a PC person. If you’re a Mac user, just about any Mac made within the last several years should be up to the task. In short, you want at least 4GB of RAM, and a discrete video card. This ensures smooth rendering when streaming movies.

If you’re accessing photos or text documents, this isn’t as much of a concern, and you can get by on fewer resources.

Use Software That Can Pull It Off

Software that will help you stream video has (thankfully) become commonplace. It’s called media server software. An example of it would be Pogoplug PC – a Windows utility that turns your computer into a sort of cloud device.

It makes your media available on your other devices through a web browser. All you have to do is choose the folders you want to share and then sign into your account using a companion app for either iOS devices or Android.

Once logged in, you can open any photo, video, music file, or even watch a slideshow. As long as the folders were selected for sharing on your computer, they’ll be available on your mobile device.

To make things easier on yourself, you might want to set up special videos on your computer that are optimized for your mobile device. That way, you won’t run into playback issues. If you want to learn more about how to do this, check out the YTD app (YouTube Downloader app). It converts video files, and optimizes them for the devices you’ll be using. Just remember to respect intellectual property rights when using downloaded content.

Use Your Inherent Cloud Storage

If you have a Mac, you may not need any special software. iCloud automatically streams music, movies, and images to all devices. If it’s on one of your devices, it’ll appear on all of them. There are some limitations though. So, for example, if you’ve purchased a Mac in the last few years, but you’re not upgrading to Yosemite or iOS8, then you won’t be able to share any file type – you’ll be limited to basically photos and some types of documents that are stored in the cloud. You can also only stream movies and T.V. shows purchased from iTunes in the cloud. Other videos that reside on one device aren’t automatically streamed. Of course, you can use AirDrop to transfer video files from one device to another, but this isn’t the same thing as streaming.

On Android devices, you can use AirCast to stream media using Google’s Chromecast from your phone’s gallery, Google Drive, or DropBox.

Buy Cloud Storage

You can buy into the DropBox phenomenon and transfer files that way. It’s not exactly streaming, but it gets documents and images on all devices you own using some pretty slick syncing technology.

Google Docs is another option. It’s free, though it’s really made for documents, not video. Yet another option is to use something like Amazon Cloud Storage, Bitcasa, or any of the larger “infinite storage” solutions on the market.

Build Your Own Cloud

If you don’t like the idea of storing everything on someone else’s cloud, you can always build your own. For a few hundred dollars, you can build your own cloud storage server out of a Synology Diskstation and some Western Digital hard drives.

If you shop Amazon.com, you can even buy them as a bundle and assemble them at home in about 5 minutes. The Diskstation even comes with software that makes it easy to use with both Android and iOS devices.

For the price, you can’t beat it – a small network attached storage unit, with 3 terabytes of space, shouldn’t cost you more than a few hundred dollars.

Once it’s set up, you might want to invest in an affordable offsite backup solution, like Backblaze, for $5 per month. This option does require a lot of money up-front, but it’s also one of the cheapest over the long-run. It also affords you the most control over your data, which is becoming more and more important in this day and age when you never know if the government is collecting data on you from third parties.

Jessica Parks has always been fascinated by the circuit boards and capabilities of computers. She loves blogging about setting up computer systems, improving file management, and protecting computers through smart security measures.

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