To some extent, we all use cloud services. Do you know anyone who doesn’t have a Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail account? Those folks are a rare breed of holdouts. But ask a Gmail user if they use cloud storage and they might tell you that they don’t. The truth is that online email is a version of cloud storage. Before we had services like Dropbox, Box.NET, Google Drive, and other such services, if you wanted to have access to a file while on the go, you would simply email it to yourself.
Fast forward to 2013 and your options for online storage have increased dramatically. I personally use several of these storage services. My goal here is not to compare and declare a winner, but to briefly introduce three of the services that I personally use. The best service for each individual will vary depending on how that individual plans on using it.
Dropbox was the first dedicated cloud storage service that I used. It was simple to install on both my Mac and Windows-based devices. The service works by synchronizing your files across your different devices. When installing, you can select a directory where you want your synchronized files to be stored. From then on, any files added to that directory gets (1)uploaded to your online cloud storage area and (2)downloaded to any other device on which you have installed and configured the Dropbox application. In addition, you’ll have access to your files by logging on to the Dropbox website. I’ve used Dropbox to share files with colleagues and to maintain a constantly accessible copy of some files that I use regularly. When collaborating with colleagues, each of us would simply save to the Dropbox folder and in seconds, the file would be available to the entire team. At present, the free plan only gives you 2GB of storage space but, unlike some other services, does not impose any file size restriction.
Box is currently the service I use most heavily. It functions very much the same way as Dropbox. You install an app on each device that you want to sync files from and to. There’s an app for all the major platforms – Android, iPhone/iPad, Windows and Mac devices. There’s also a very good web interface that can be accessed from any browser. Box has some other nice features that power users might enjoy, like integration with Microsoft Office, Google Docs, and many other cloud services. For me though, the selling point was the storage space. When I signed up for the service, they had a promotional offer that gave new customers 25 gigs of free space. I jumped on it and have been using Box regularly ever since.
Carbonite is one of those services that I think every business and homeowner should explore. They provide a cloud-based backup system that is affordable enough (from $59 per year) for just about any budget. Everyone agrees that we should back up our data – pictures, business documents, etc. Unfortunately though, most people don’t do this job very well, mainly because they fail to maintain a consistent backup schedule. With Carbonite, you basically ‘set it and forget it’. Install the software on your Windows or Mac computer. The software automatically selects your personal folders for backup but, you can select additional folders to have them included in your backup set. From then on, Carbonite will backup all of the data files from the selected folders automatically anytime they get changed. Your files are encrypted before and during transmission, and stored encrypted offsite in the cloud…actually at Carbonite’s secure datacenters.
I know there are quite a few other cloud storage services…some very popular ones like Google Drive. If you have experience with any of the services I mentioned or any others, share your experience in the comments section.