The good thing about technology is that a lot of it is free. Or, nearly free.
Technology has changed our lives.
The Internet, Instant Messaging, Social Media, and the multitude of apps on the web are mostly free.
As a consumer, I believe free is good.
I like Google’s philosophy of giving stuff away.
Google has a stated mission – “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” And, giving stuff away appears to be just the means to an end.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my apple devices. But, I get more value out of my Google apps.
So, here are a few tips on how to save money leveraging free technology from Google.
Use free storage from Google Drive: In the past seven years or so, I have had two PC hard disk failures and two external disk failures. So, if I am bullish on the virtues of cloud-based storage systems, you should understand.
Should you spend $100 on an external drive?
Consider this: If you do not have to pay for storing your photos, videos, and music, how much disk storage would you need?
If you answered “not much,” you may be able to manage with cloud storage from Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, both of whom offer 15GB of free storage. Here is a good post from CNET on “How to get the most out of your free online storage.”
As for your photos, videos, and music, read on.
Use Google Photos to back up your photos and videos: If you have not checked out Google Photos yet, you must. It is your solution for backing up unlimited image and video files.
It is free.
Simply put, Google lets you upload unlimited number of photos and videos to its new Google Photo service free of charge. The intelligence built into the application allows you to search your database of photos without having to remember file names. Here is the search result for the term “table” from within my photo uploads.
You get the idea?
The Google Photos service frees up space on your traditional storage systems which you can now use exclusively for non-media related files like documents, spreadsheets etc. For more details on Google Photos, check out my post titled “Three simple digital media tools #16.”
Upload your music to Google Play Music: If you are just looking for a place to store your music, access and play it from different locations and devices, this one is for you.
Google Play lets you upload up to 50,000 songs to their service for free.
Using the Google Play app you can listen to your songs from any device of your choice. Within the US, Google Play offers free, ad-supported radio that plays music curated for your mood and taste. An “all access” service is offered for a fee of US$9.99 per month to US and non-US subscribers who will be given on-demand access to over 30 million ad-free songs.
I cannot write about streaming music without mentioning the two most prominent players in the business – Apple Music and Spotify. Both offer similar services that provide access to a large database of over 30 million songs. Here is a good post that compares the three services: Apple Music vs Google Play Music vs Spotify.
If you are wondering how long it will take you to listen to 30 million songs, the answer is: more than your lifetime!
Make free calls using Google Hangouts and Hangouts Dialer: Hangouts as a communication platform has evolved. If you are not into making video calls, you can still benefit from the Hangouts Dialer component of the service.
Google Hangouts gives you the ability to make video calls to an individual or a group, with added functionality for Instant Messaging, voice calls, and text messaging. Google “Hangouts on air” allows you to broadcast your video calls to your Google+ profile and/or your You Tube channel, if you have one.
It is free.
Here’s a link to a good Google Hangouts Tutorial.
Other apps like Microsoft’s Skype and Zoom offer similar services at no cost. However, the ability to initiate calls from Gmail and Google+ gives it an edge. Apple’s FaceTime also offers video calling functionality, limited to Apple IOS devices.
If you live in the US, you can set up a Google Voice account and a number to make and receive calls. If you live outside the US, you can still leverage the Hangouts Dialer application to make outgoing calls to anywhere in the world.
Calls within Canada and the US are mostly free. Calls to international locations incur low long-distance charges.
This is a very handy tool to have when you are on the road and not on a company expense account. Hangouts dialer works seamlessly over the web on PCs, Android, and IOS devices.
Use Google Maps as your GPS replacement: If you only use Google Maps to look up directions to your client’s office, you are not utilizing it to its full extent. Google Maps on your smartphone can be a perfect replacement for your GPS system and also act as a route planner for your drive, or walk.
If you have a reasonable cellular data plan, you should not be investing in another GPS device.
If you do decide to drive around in a foreign country, make sure that you include a local GPS system with your rental car. Mobile roaming charges can be a killer as you can see in this post titled “Of trust, transparency, and a whopping mobile phone bill!”
Use Google Translate when you are travelling in a foreign country: The power of Google Translate should not be under estimated.
The application has come a long way from its early days and can auto-detect languages and translate sentences in many foreign languages. The trick is to keep the sentences simple. Avoid figurative speech; machine-learning does not account for nuanced speak. If you have to look for directions or find a restroom in a foreign city, this will come in handy.
Here’s an example. Try it yourself.
Get your news through Google News: If you are a news junkie, you will like this service from Google.
Google’s news aggregation service provides you up-to-date information from over 25,000 publishers covering over 4,500 sites.
Get alerts on your favourite topic from Google Alerts: Google’s alerting system will send subscribers an email when news or stories break on topics of interest. It is a very handy tool if you want to stay on top of a subject close to your heart.
Try Google Docs, Sheets, & Slides as an alternative to Microsoft Office: Google’s equivalent of Microsoft Office 365 suite offers subscribers free access to a word processor, spreadsheet application, and a presentation program. The ubiquitous access to these free cloud-based applications can be significant for you, if you are trying to avoid costs associated with buying Microsoft’s Office suite or subscribing to equivalent cloud services.
So, how many of these services do you use?