Cloud storage is nothing new. In fact, it has been around for so long that I keep waiting for something new to replace it, but nothing really ever will. The fact is storage is storage. It comes in different shapes and sizes, but it is still just a place to dump your stuff. There is no bigger place to dump your stuff than on the Internet. The first question I always hear is, “Is it safe?” That’s a pretty loaded question, and in some cases it might be safer than keeping the info on your local PC. Just like with any technology, it is the user’s responsibility to do some due diligence research to determine their level of comfort with online storage. For me, I am pretty comfortable with the idea. I imagine very little risk, but I also don’t put any financial info out on any of my online storage either.
Let’s talk about a few online storage providers. Microsoft SkyDrive is rapidly becoming my favorite place to store stuff. With 7GB of storage free at signup plus you can purchase up to an additional 100GB for $50/year, I think that’s a pretty good deal. Plus, you get some cool basic web apps that let you view and edit Office documents like Word and Excel. A free app lets you automatically sync folders between your computer and your SkyDrive — kind of like a backup. Additionally, you can share folders and files with anyone you want free over the internet encrypted using SSL certificates. Competing almost feature for feature is the Google Drive. The biggest difference I can see here is the amount of storage and pricing. Google starts you off with 15GB of storage, but adding storage is a bit more expensive. For 100GB you will pay almost $60/year, but they have plans that allow you to store lots more going up as high as 16TB — that’s 160 times the largest plan Microsoft has and it only costs $799/month. While most of us won’t need that much storage, it’s nice to know it’s there. Amazon also deserves to be mentioned among these 2 giants of technology. Amazon provides 5 free GB with pricing more in line with what Microsoft has advertised. Amazon’s largest package is nearly 1TB for $500. While not quite on the same playing field as the 3 providers I have already mentioned, DropBox is a very popular storage service that lets you buy storage starting at 100GB for about $100/year. DropBox’s popularity is probably due in part to its very interesting free program that starts you off with 2GB, but allows you to earn up to 18GB of storage by referring friends and installing their app on your PC and mobile devices, not to mention it has always been very easy to use.
All of these services have a few things in common. They all allow you to store files on their servers on the internet, making it possible to access and share these files anywhere in the world. They take care of maintaining their data centers and backing up all the data on their servers, making sure that you have the always-available, uninterrupted access to your files that you want. All of these services provide a way to sync folders on your computer automatically, with the service giving you an almost continuous backup of those files and allowing you to access them even when you are offline. Apps for mobile devices are also available for all of these services that allow you to access and sync media between your mobile devices and the online storage. These services are great for storage, backup, and sharing and enabling collaboration. A few of them even enable productivity right in the cloud, by allowing you to view and edit files right in the web browser. If you aren’t using one of these services, my question to you is, “Why not?” If you are concerned about privacy, check out the privacy statement for each provider and see whose policy you are most comfortable. If security is a concern, search Google for news about security breaches and look at their web sites. Many of them are very proud of their security measures and either have information published on their site about the security level of their service or are happy to tell you about it if you ask. In general though, the weakest link on the security of your data stored in the cloud will be your password. Use a strong password, and you should be in good shape. Now go out there and start storing it in the cloud.