Riding the Cloud: Guide to Online File Storage


Free Cloud Storage

Recently more companies have been coming out with cloud storage and you might be wondering a few things.

What is a cloud?
Cloud storage is a model of networked online storage where data is stored on multiple virtual servers, generally hosted by third parties, rather than being hosted on dedicated servers. (Wikipedia)
Basically, a cloud is online storage which allows you to upload your files and they are stored on the companies server. Some companies use multiple servers so your files are still safe if they have an issue with one.

Why should I use a cloud?
Using a cloud is a smart idea because it gives you added security that your files won't be lost if something happens to your computer. A cloud can be used as your main storage, or just as a back-up. I personally keep my pictures on a cloud server. I have a friend that is writing a novel and he saves it on a cloud.

Another benefit of cloud storage is that you can save the file on computer A and open it on computer B. This is great if you're like me and get to work only to realize you left the document on your printer at home.

How much does it cost?
The biggest road block in using cloud storage use to be the cost. Luckily, we know that there are always ways to get things for free and storage space is another example of how shopping around for deals can result in little out of pocket expenses.

How do I decide which company to use?
Depending on your need and how much you are willing to spend, there are a few good options to look into. Below are my favorite clouds along with a quick description and the pro and cons. I have also included how much storage each will provide you for free. That's right, most clouds provide a basic account for free. If none of the services offer enough storage you can always open accounts at different companies. I use one for my work files and a different company for my personal files.

Is it safe?
As with anything on the internet, nothing is 100% safe. We've all read in the news about major companies being hacked. That being said, I've never had any problems with the files I've stored on any of these sites.

Amazon - Amazon has recently rolled out a cloud server in association with their digital content store. You get a basic 5 GB for free and that can currently be upgraded to 20 GB for free when you purchase an MP3 album. I personally like the MP3 storage because I can play my music from work or home. Purchases are automatically backed-up in your cloud but you can still download them to your computer for iTunes. Amazon will allow you to upgrade up to a 1,000 GB storage plan and the prices are some of the lowest around. If you need 100 GB, you'll pay $100 per year. Remember, a 5 GB storage is free. To upload your files, you will have to manually open your cloud on Amazon and upload individual files.

- I personally like Dropbox for the ease of use. Their free account is only 2 GB but I needed to clear my files off the work computer before turning it in at the end of the school year. Dropbox allows you to download a free program which creates a folder on your desktop. Any file dragged into that folder is automatically uploaded to your cloud for back-up. It's extremely easy to back-up multiple files at once. Since I only had basic documents to transfer, 2 GB was plenty of space. Another nice thing about Dropbox is that you get additional free storage (up to 8 GB) for referring new members. Dropbox is more costly for upgrades but I like the automatic syncing. If you need 100 GB, you'll pay $19.99 per month or $199 a year. If you are a student, you can earn double for your referrals. After you enroll, head over to the Dropbox edu link to earn up to 16 GB for referrals. You must already have an account before completing the student upgrade.

iDrive - iDrive is similar to Dropbox because it allows you to download a program which makes syncing as easy as dragging a file into a folder on your desktop. Free storage begins with 5 GB and you can earn an additional 50 GB of free storage through their referral program. The only thing I really don't like about iDrive is possibility an error on my part. A few months ago they had offered a promotion for a free $10 iTunes gift card. I never got the gift card and I never got responses to email follow-ups. iDrive offers different upgrade packages including personal and business. The 100 GB business account is $199.50 per year. The personal account only has one size, 150 GB for $49.50 a year. I can't figure out the difference between the personal and business accounts.

Google - Google's cloud isn't actually a cloud in the sense of the other sites. Google has tons of different serves that can store and save all your files. Google Docs will save your documents such as Word, Excel, PDF, Powerpoint, and others. Google Picasa will store your photos. Google Music, which is still in beta testing, will allow you to upload your music. All of Google's features are free.

For the purpose of comparing apples to apples, I selected to price the 100 GB plan on each site. Prices were obtained on June 6, 2011. If you are reading this post through an archive, please note that prices can change. See the individual sites for current pricing.


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