Choosing a cloud can be difficult. While cloud storage has been widely used for some time now, many people may not know its uses or really know what their options are. Cloud storage is one of the more popular types of storage these days, and if you’re concerned with keeping your files safe and secure, understanding the cloud is pretty important.
What is cloud storage?
The cloud is a service accessed through the internet, allowing users to upload their files to servers and later access them for viewing or downloading. With cloud storage, your files may not be on your actual device at all, instead uploaded on the internet through whichever service you choose to use. Cloud storage can be used through a browser or through a service’s app.
What are some pros and cons?
There are numerous pros and cons to consider when choosing cloud storage. Cloud storage might not be for everyone. It’s also very important to note that everyone should be safe about keeping their files backed up. Instead of simply relying on your files to stay safe in the cloud, you should consider also placing your files somewhere else, like on a USB drive (flash drive), before permanently deleting the files from your computer, phone, or tablet.
- You can back up your photos and other files in an additional location in case your USB drive, computer, or other device loses the data
- You can store your files on the cloud instead of taking up the space on your phone’s or computer’s internal storage
- You can access your files from anywhere that you have an internet connection, even from different devices
- You can often use your cloud service to share files with others
- You can organize your files easily
- Despite the major services implementing strict safety precautions, it’s possible your files could be compromised by hackers
- If you lose access to the internet, you won’t be able to load your files
- If the server has issues, your photos may be inaccessible for a short while
What options are available?
There are quite a few options when it comes to cloud storage. Some people buy new phones that have cloud storage apps pre-installed and are happy to stick to that app instead of looking into others. Many of the cloud services are very similar, so it’s no surprise that a person might want to stick to what they have. However, it’s always a good idea to know which options are available to you. Here are just five of the more popular cloud storage services you can choose from:
Amazon Drive is a service that has free and paid options. Amazon members can get 5GB of free storage. Amazon Prime members, on the other hand, get unlimited storage space for their photos and 5GB of other file storage, all for free with their membership. It can store all of your files and is a very straightforward cloud storage service. Amazon Drive can be accessed through a browser or through their app, and it is available through a computer, an iPhone, or an Android device. You can enable certain files or folders to be shared, creating a link to the specified file(s) and making them available to others. Amazon Drive has clear folder organization and makes it easy to organize your files and place photos in albums. You can even invite other Prime members into a shared “Family Vault” of photos.
Cost: 5GB of space is free; 5GB of space + unlimited photo storage is free for Prime members; other plans are available from $11.99 a year and up.
Go to the Amazon Drive website for more information or to sign up.
Dropbox is a storage service that has free and paid storage options available. With a free Dropbox Basic account, users get 2GB of space. (You can also earn more storage space by completing certain tasks.) It can store all your files, and depending on which plan you get, there are quite a few good features. With Dropbox Basic, you can make your files public for others to access, and you can create shared folders in order to work on files together. You can also let others upload files to your Dropbox even if they don’t have an account. You can star files for easier access, and there’s a search bar available. You can access Dropbox from a computer or from an app. On your computer, Dropbox creates a special Dropbox folder for you to drag and drop files you want to upload to the cloud. With other paid plans, there are extra features like more space and access to Dropbox Paper for working on documents with other people.
Cost: 2GB of space is free; other monthly plans range from $9.99 to $25.
Go to the Dropbox website for more information or to sign up.
Google Drive is a cloud storage service that offers free and paid storage. Google Drive users can get 15GB of storage completely for free. It will store any files you have, so that includes things like photos, music, documents, videos, etc. You can access the service through your browser or through an app. In addition to being able to access your photos anywhere, it also offers a way to share your files with other people. Your files are automatically private, but you can decide to invite other people to access your file and even make edits to the file with you. You can open up individual files or whole folders to people you want to have access. The service has a nice search feature (unsurprising, since it’s Google), and it can even search within images if it recognizes a certain object and search for words within scanned documents. Google Drive also works well with other Google services, like Gmail and Google Docs.
Cost: 15GB of space is free; other monthly plans range from $1.99 to $99.99; if you’re feeling crazy and need 30TB for some reason, they even have a monthly plan for $299.99.
Go to the Google Drive website for more information or to sign up.
iCloud is Apple’s cloud storage offering. If you have an Apple device, this may be the storage plan that will work best for you. iCloud users can get 5GB of storage for free. It can store all of your files, including the usual photos, videos, documents, and any other files you have. iCloud can be accessed through the iCloud program on your Mac, through an app on your Apple device, or from any browser. This enables users to access their files wherever they have an internet connection. They can also let other people view, save, and edit certain files. iCloud also has family plans, so you and other family members can go in on a plan together and have a shared photo album in the cloud. (Don’t worry, you get to decide what’s shared to the family cloud.) iCloud will also back up your device every night so you can restore your data if a problem occurs. And the service works well with other Apple offerings, like your mail, contacts, and reminders.
Cost: 5GB of space is free; other monthly plans range from $.99 to $9.99, including family plans.
Go to the iCloud website for more information or to sign up.
Microsoft OneDrive is cloud storage that offers free and paid plans. A free account gives users 5GB of storage space. You can store all of your files privately, or open some up for other people to access. You can access it through a browser or an app. With a free account, you’re able to search through your files easily. You’re also able to edit and make notes on your files that you’ve uploaded, even using a mobile device. There are easily navigated folders and even a Recent tab for finding things you’ve recently interacted with. OneDrive also notes that it’s encrypted, emphasizing its security and the safety of your files. With paid plans, you can do extra things like set your links to expire after a certain length of time, access files offline, scan documents, or even get Microsoft Office programs like Word and PowerPoint included in the service.
Cost: 5GB of space is free; other monthly plans range from $1.99 to $9.99, and there are yearly plans, as well.
Go to the Microsoft OneDrive website for more information or to sign up.
Prime seems expensive: the upfront annual cost went up to $99 since I signed up years ago. But if it was worth it to me then, it is a steal of a deal now, if you consider all the newly added benefits you get access to.
Get Prime by the month: Don’t have $99 lying around, or don’t think you need an entire year of Prime? Sign up by the month and pay $10.99. And you get a deal if you qualify for low-income benefits: it’s only $5.99 per month for customers with an EBT card. Sign up for Prime around Thanksgiving and cash in on all the online Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals, with free shipping to boot, and then drop it when you’re done.
Prime Student: Use your school email (ending in .edu) to score four $49-years of Prime. Act soon and you can get 6 months free.
Amazon Household: A Prime account is for your whole household, not just one person. Two adults living in the same house, and with separate Amazon accounts, can link their accounts to share the benefits of a single Prime account. You can share payment methods, and even add profiles for up to four children so your kids can take advantage of all the free reading and streaming of videos and music without being able to order anything. (You cannot use Amazon Household if you have a Prime Student discount).
Prime Wardrobe: Try before you buy. Choose 3 or more items of clothing, and have them shipped to you to try on. Send back what you don’t want in a prepaid box, and only pay for what you keep. Keeping more items earns you discounts, too: up to 20%. Currently, Prime Wardrobe is in beta, but you can ask to be notified when it launches.
Prime Video: Originals like Transparent and Catastrophe are available. They also have Downton Abbey, The Wire, and you can pay a little extra for channels like Showtime and HBO.
Unlimited cloud storage for pictures: Store as many precious memories in the secure Cloud Drive as you want, and stop worrying about losing them.
Prime Music: Choose songs, albums, or a station. More than 2 million available songs and you can also upload your current collection and listen on any device with the app. There is also a paid subscription that gives you access to tens of millions of songs for $7.99 a month; however, the family plan is $14.99 per month and allows up to six family members to use it. That’s $2.50 per person! Quick, I need five people! Anybody?
Food: Have some grocery staples shipped to your door: Prime Pantry boxes ship for $5.99, and you can save 15% with Subscribe and Save. Weekly deals and coupons also make grocery shopping online attractive.
Prime Rewards Visa: For serious Amazon shoppers, the 5% back (in credit, not cash) may be a draw. Add a $70 gift card for signing up.
Free two-day shipping: Of course, this perk is awesome, but it can only be used for certain items. If you shop Amazon for everything, this perk may be worth the fee on its own: leading up to Christmas, the free shipping alone more than pays for my account. However, sometimes you can opt in for slower shipping and get credits for books, music, and more.
Prime Reading: There is a large rotating collection of books, magazines, comics and more available free with your Prime account, and some even have Audible narration, if you would rather listen.
Video games for Prime: Twitch Prime includes a Twitch subscription and free content. Prime discounts on video games could save you some real money, and some pre-orders are delivered ON THE RELEASE DATE. That means you can skip the line and still get that new game the second it is released.
It’s hard to resist all those perks for about $8.25 per month if you pay by the year. Amazon Prime members are much more likely to only shop at Amazon (I can see why), but beware: sometimes they have the best deal, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they really don’t, and getting free shipping may not make up the price difference, especially considering that other online retailers like Walmart and Jet are making a major effort to compete by offering their own free shipping. So remember to shop around.
So you heard you need to backup your important files. Everyone should because having one copy of something important is not a good idea. Something about eggs in one basket. You should separate your eggs. Here’s why:
Computers fail. If your hard drive crashes or becomes corrupted, getting your files back usually isn’t an option. Same goes if your house burns down or your stuff gets stolen.
People fail. I can’t tell you how many times I have lost important school assignments (it’s always just before it is due, too) moving files around. Maybe I thought I had multiple copies of the file when I only had one. Maybe I had a rough draft and a final draft, didn’t name them differently enough, and deleted the wrong one (more than once. I even submitted the rough draft once. How embarrassing!)
Security fails. There are precautions you can take to make this unlikely, but it’s never a sure thing, and plenty of people have been left wishing they had a backup from recent ransomware attacks. But it doesn’t even have to be ransomware: simple, everyday viruses can corrupt your irreplaceable files.
Keep 3 separate copies.
This means the original, plus two other copies.
In the IT world, backing up everything, always, is a golden rule. So is 3-2-1:
At least 2 different types of media. A hardware failure could signal certain weakness in that specific hardware type. You lower your risk of failure and your vulnerability to virus and ransomware attack by using multiple kinds of media.
At least 1 in a location separate from the other two. Think: if your house burns down, all your files are gone unless they are somewhere else. If you get hit with ransomware and your external storage is connected to your computer, those files are gone unless they are somewhere else.
What should I use as a back-up?
You have plenty of options, including:
- External hard drives
- SD cards
- Pin drives
- CD disks
- Other computers
- Cloud storage
Cloud storage is awesome. Which one should I use?Cloud storage is a great option, because it fulfills the requirement of being a different type of media, in a different location, with the added perk that it is available from any device with an internet connection, and can be automated to back up everything, always, so you don’t have to remember to do it. And don’t worry; any cloud storage provider worth their salt knows how to keep your data safe.
Visit How-to Geek for advice on the best cloud services, best cloud/external drive back up all-in-one, and a promotional code for two free months with Carbonite!
I like OneDrive because it is convenient and easy to use. It comes with 5 GB storage as part of the Microsoft Office Suite, which means you might already have access to it, especially if you are a student. An additional 50GB is available for $1.99 a month, and a terabyte is $6.99, along with the new versions of Office apps like Word and Excel. If you use a computer running Windows, a Microsoft-based cloud server is going to integrate seamlessly.
Google Drive is also awesome and makes sharing files with co-workers, teachers, and fellow students very easy. It integrates well with most systems, can handle any file type, and is a must if you use the Google Suite. You get 15 GB for free, 100 GB for $1.99 per month, 1 terabyte for $9.99 per month, and 10 terabytes for $99.99 per month.
For larger amounts of data backup, use an unlimited storage system like CrashPlan for about $5 a month.
The truly unique aspect of CrashPlan is that their free service gives you the option to quickly and easily backup your data wirelessly to another computer you have access to—ideally in another location, like a hard-drive at your office, or a friend’s house. Files are encrypted so you don’t have to worry about the privacy of your back-up.
Special thanks to How-To Geek for their tips about backing things up!
Don’t wait till something happens to your stuff to set up a backup system. Keeping all your eggs in one basket is asking to lose them. Baskets are not safe; get those eggs into the cloud!
What is your favorite cloud storage service? Or do you have a favorite external hard drive? Tweet at me!