Digitalisation: Switching your library to the cloud

I think that one of the most exciting developments of the 20th century is the cloud. For anyone who doesn’t know what the cloud is, it’s a number of things. Firstly it’s a backup for your data. Second, and this is my favourite one, it’s a centralised way to store files we all use. For example, music. Spotify, Apple Music, the list goes on. They store the songs and you pay a subscription to access their files in a library so vast – you’d never have enough storage to assemble yourself.

As a TV and film addict, naturally my physical archives reflected this. In my early days, this was in the form of drawers and drawers of VHS’s, taking up a significant portion of space in my bedroom and living room. Then came the arrival of dvd. Aside from being able to skip through films, play films on my computer and fit longer playback on a single disk – it had a significant other advantage of VHS. Size. Slowly but surely my VHS collection shrunk to half the size, while doubling the actual content.

Flick forward a few years and a similar process began changing my dvd collection into blu-rays. But before I got too far into the transition, the cloud hit hard, and before long another medium for TV and film was born.

Now I like to own the entertainment that I enjoy, especially when I plan on watching it several times over. So while I love Netflix, Amazon prime, NOW TV and the likes; they don’t completely replace the old fashioned way of assembling a personal video collection. Enter iTunes…

Back when iTunes was first starting out as a digital supplier of music, Apple probably didn’t realise the scope that it could actually achieve. Perhaps this is most evident in the very name of the service. But by the time iTunes was offering TV shows, films, audio books and such, they were clearly beyond the point where they could change the name. But either way, once iTunes had set itself up to be the virtual TV and film library of the future – I started to comprehend the space that would be freed on my shelves. The ease of selecting my programming, and ability to watch the videos on multiple devices were also massive bonuses.

So, now I write this, probably about four years into the digitalisation of my entertainment library. I thought, as we move further and further into the cloud -based age there may be some tips I could share. Things I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Pick and stick. iTunes isn’t the only way to assemble a digital library. My advice here is to consider the options carefully and stick with your choice. There’s nothing worse than having a digital library that’s split across incompatible devices. So think about what type of services you want and, perhaps more importantly, what brand of devices you’ll be playing them on. Both now and in the future. It may sound obvious, but this is a key element to digital library building. Because you may well be tempted when one media offers reduced rates, but sticking with your decision will pay off. Especially when you factor in my next point.
  2. Keep your eyes on the prize. While I can only speak from experience in iTunes, I’m sure there is a wishlist facility on the other alternatives too. Logging your current physical dvd library into a wishlist enables you to quickly and easily see if your titles happen to be reduced that week. And that’s the main key to digitalisation; constantly keep your finger on the pulse of the online store. Each week will rotate titles at highly reduced rates. These are often extremely discounted at peak seasons like the January sales or black Friday. Capitalising on these enable a quicker process of transferring your titles. Where possible, it’s a case of prioritising reduced titles in your collection rather than just your favourites. Patience is key as I have found there to be very few titles that don’t get reduced at least once a year.
  3. Don’t be cloud proud. As your library online grows and your dvd shelf looks tidier and tidier, there is an important thing to consider – the future. Far be it from me to preach soon and gloom about online services, but just as a physical collection carried risk (fire, flood, age deterioration), so does the cloud. What happens if a particular production company falls out with your media supplier and decides to stop hosting their films on your platform? What if the Internet dies (like entertainment would be your biggest problem if this occurs!!!!)? Backups are critical. Perhaps the most closely item of my digital collection is my 4tb external hard drive which I download everything to as a backup. Three years ago it at me back £350, but today they retail at a lot less. I would highly recommend investing here as a fallback in case anything ever does go wrong.
  4. Share the fare. One of apples more generous developments in iTunes history was when it opened up the option of sharing store purchases among 5 family members. Not helpful for families of six or more, but a life saver for the film lovers in your pack. Utilising this share function enables you to spilt the cost of your digitalisation process by each working on purchasing new titles. Or, at least a handy way to ‘lend’ films between family members.

Well that’s just a few of the gems I’ve learned along the way. I hope it helps in the war against clutter! If all else fails, just remember it’ll probably be on Netflix or Prime before you know it anyway!!