Can you remember the days that when your computer broke, the most painful thing was that all of your files were gone? Many people with CD writers used to make constant backups, and then when external hard drives became cheap enough, set up backups on those.
But now, there is an easier way, with cloud storage.
Using cloud storage, you can simply upload all of your files onto an internet server, and from there, you will be able to access them at any time.
One other great thing about cloud storage is that sharing files through email is now gone. Sometimes, a file is just too big to be sent by email, or you have to wait ages for the file to send. If you use cloud storage, it is as simple as sharing a link and whoever you want to have the file can download it just by clicking. If you are taking work home, or want to work on a file from one computer to the other, if you use cloud storage you can just save in one place and then carry on working straight in another.
And the amazing thing about this cloud storage is that most of the services are completely free to use. Perhaps the only difficultly is deciding which one to use, which is why we have listed the advantages and disadvantages of each of the common services here:
If you already know what cloud storage is, this is very likely the program that you know off. Dropbox accounts start with only 2 GB of space, but there are plenty of ways to get more room.
First of all, by using Dropbox’s gallery program, Carousel (available for both iPhones and Android devices), you can get a cool extra 3 GB.
Secondly, if you have a Twitter account, you can get an extra 250 MB simply by sending out a tweet, and following the Dropbox Twitter. Connect with Facebook, and you can add another 125 MB to your account. Share your Dropbox link on Facebook as well, because for every person who signs up with it, you can get an extra 500mb, up to a massive 16GB of space. This puts the potential storage of Dropbox at almost 20GB.
Dropbox makes syncing files really, really simple. Just download the app and a folder will be inserted on your computer. Any files you put into this will instantly be uploaded to Dropbox, ready to be used and accessed on anything.
You can also use it to backup all of the videos and photos on your phone as well. By installing the Carousel app, you can choose to have all of your precious memories uploaded, meaning that you are never at risk of losing them because you have broken your phone or dropped it.
Google Drive Review
Of course, Google has entered the cloud storage space, but they have a slightly different way of doing things. Google Drive is also heavily focused around its office apps.
If you have a Google account (for example, because you have signed up for YouTube, or you have a Gmail account) then you already have a Drive account. Unlike Dropbox, Google Drive is instantly generous with its space. The moment you sign up, you already have 15GB. Protip: If you have an .edu address, you can instead get 30GB for signing up through it.
By going onto the Google Drive home page you can choose to store all your files, or create a new document using Google’s versions of Word, Powerpoint, and Excel. This means that if you are planning on using your cloud storage for working on these types of files, then Google Drive might be a really key option for you (but also, do see OneDrive in the next entry). Although not part of Microsoft, Google Drive can also convert your Microsoft documents into a format it can read. This means that if you really need to work on a file, and the computer you are using doesn’t have Word, Excel or Powerpoint installed, you can easily start editing as long as you have access to the internet.
Google Drive does offer a program that works very much like the Dropbox app in that you get a new folder on your computer you can put files in to have them automatically upload, but it is also really easy to upload on the Google Drive website itself. You can either choose to press an “upload” button and manually select the files on your computer, or you can simply drag and drop any file on your computer to upload it straight away.
Google also makes it really easy to share files using Drive. When emailing someone in Gmail and attaching a file, if it is too big, Google will offer to automatically upload it to Drive for you. This is fast and convenient for both people as downloading from Google Drive is almost always faster than downloading an attachment from an email.
This option has gone through many names; Windows Live Folders, Windows SkyDrive, and it’s last one, SkyDrive. This is Microsoft’s attempt to enter the free cloud storage space.
Like Google Drive, it offers 15 GB straight away for all of it’s users. Unlike Google Drive, it also offers an additional 15GB of space, but only for photos. This means that you can take as virtually many pictures as you want with your smart phone, upload them, and not have to worry about running out of space on any of your devices.
One really great feature of OneDrive is its Recycle Bin. Just like Windows, when you delete a file, it is actually stored in a separate folder, allowing you to recover the file with just one click, which is excellent if you are the kind of person who might accidentally press the wrong button and delete vital files. These files can last for up to 90 days before they are permanently deleted, and what is even better is that these files do not count at all to your file limit, meaning that, unlike Windows you also don’t need to be concerned with emptying the bin to free space (Although, if your Recycle Bin starts getting to above 1.5gb of space, Microsoft will start deleting your files, starting from the oldest one first, as long as that file hasn’t been in there for more than three days).
Like Google with Drive and their office programs, Microsoft have also integrated its office applications into OneDrive. If you have the latest version of these office programs, then it is very easy to also save a backup of your work to OneDrive. If you are always working with the latest versions of Microsoft Office at home and work, this makes OneDrive a very attractive offer.
One really cool feature is that you can also make your files public. So let’s say you have designed a flyer in Microsoft Word. You can then upload it to OneDrive, press an option to prevent anyone else from editing it, and share it around by giving out a link. If you are a member of any Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter groups, OneDrive also lets you share easily on these networks, even controlling which ones of your friends can just view the file, and which ones can edit. This makes collaborating on projects with friends and family simple.
If you have a Sony Xperia smart phone, or a HP computer, you might already have this cloud service, and you really should start using it, as you will have 50GB of space, far bigger than any of the other providers here. However, if you don’t, this service lags far behind all of the others, with only 10GB of storage available for free accounts.
One reason why Box offers so little space for users (compared to other options) is for two reasons. The first is that it is far more business oriented than the other services, and is after people who will want to eventually buy more free space (much more than the other services). However, it also offers much greater security than all the other cloud providers (other than Mega below), meaning that it is perfect for those people who might be wanting to work on sensitive files from work.
As well as being able to select who can view or edit your documents, you can also set folders to only have upload access, meaning that you can keep the wrong kind of people from editing files, but still provide you with whatever files you need from them.
And, unique to this service from all the others, is a tracking system. You can see what is happening to your shared folder at any time. If you are a manager, or a freelancer, this can be amazing for seeing exactly when someone has done a piece of work or provided you with that all important file that you need. It will also allow you to see if one of the users you have trusted with the ability to edit files is actually making the wrong sort of changes.
And of course, with it’s focus on security, Box can also allow you to encrypt your files, meaning that only the users with the right keys are able to view your data.
JustCloud is one of the newest members of the cloud storage scene. And it shows. Although it says that it is a free unlimited file storage, it actually only offers you 15MB of space, about 14 floppy disks worth, and only for fourteen days. This is a far cry from their large signs on the website saying that you have unlimited free storage.
Furthermore, the software is far more invasive than all the others on this list, constantly bugging you to go and sign up for their “Unlimited Space” plan.
One reason you might want to use JustCloud is if you use a Linux machine, as the apps for all of the other services for Linux either don’t exist or are confusing to use, and JustCloud does offer support for this operating system.
Another reason is that it does do the upload slightly differently, as instead of selecting a full folder, you instead use the JustCloud Program to select and store your file, which might be useful if you would rather this feature. But, with DropBox, OneDrive and Google Drive, you can use the standard “open file” dialog on their websites, and you get far more than 15MB of space.
All in all, we really would recommend avoiding this service.
If you have been following the news, you may have seen that there has been talks of some security flaws within some cloud storage services, including Dropbox and Google Drive. Mega actually has a really smart way of solving this problem, in that before taking the file from your computer, it encrypts it, meaning that hackers won’t be able to see the contents of the file while it’s being uploaded.
Mega is also the most generous of the cloud storage services, with a free 50GB for files. It does have a different kind of file limit though. You can only upload up to 10GB a month on the free account, which means that if you want to back up everything straight away, you might not be able to do it.
Also, if you are an Internet Explorer user, the file upload might not work for you, although it is really easy to switch to either Google Chrome or Firefox.
As well as the normal Mac and Windows application for uploading files, Mega is another one of the rare free cloud file services that offers Linux support, meaning that if you work on this OS, it is the perfect choice for you.
And Mega, while not targeting business users as much as Box, also competes within the same space. As well as the previously mentioned end to end encryption, Mega has made a big thing of the privacy of its service. They claim that not even they will be able to access your files, instead giving you the encryption key that is needed to see your uploaded data. This means that, unless the encryption is hacked (which is very very unlikely), only you (or anyone you trust with the key) will ever be able to see the contents of your cloud drive.
The Best Free Cloud Storage Apps:
For the user who just wants to save files into free cloud storage, and doesn’t need anything fancy, then Dropbox should be the choice.
If you do a lot of work on computers without the latest version of office, or simply want more space than Dropbox, then Google Drive is a great service to start using
However, if you do have the latest versions of office on every machine you will ever need to use to edit your files on, then OneDrive should be used as it is fully integrated with all of the office apps.
Ont he other hand, if you are transferring files from the office to home, or are concerned about security, or you want to share your files with a lot of people but say exactly what they can do to them, then Box is the piece of software for you.
Lastly, if you want the most amount of space, or are really really concerned about your privacy, then Mega is a key pick.
The only one you should never use is JustCloud. As this article has shown, there are just so many other better options out there!