Device storage has come a long way in the last ten years. Long gone are the days of floppy disks, CD-ROMs and portable hard drives. We no longer need to fret so much over having a device with a low storage capacity, spending hours deleting photos and reorganizing our apps to free up some much-needed space.
Cloud storage has been around for a long time (in tech years) however, there can still be some confusion about what it is and how we can use it. I’d like to try and break this down to make it easier to understand and demonstrate that it’s really simple to sign up for a cloud account and start storing your files and photos.
So, What Is It?
A lot of the top tech companies (Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon) have dedicated bricks and mortar facilities packed full of huge servers with trillions of Terabytes (TB) of storage space. It’s all there ready for you, the public, to rent and use to store your emails, files, photos and apps. Think of it like a big building full of filing cabinets that you can rent either a folder, a drawer, or a whole cabinet if you wish.
The reason the cloud is favoured over using your own storage methods (for example, portable hard drives, USB drives or the device itself) is that it is more secure and is accessible from any device. A portable drive can get corrupted, lost or broken which results in a loss of important files. If you use cloud storage and your device is lost, broken or stolen, you can access your storage space from another device, ensuring that you never lose treasured photos or important documents again.
Is Cloud Storage Expensive?
In short, no. However, the more storage space you need the more it will cost. All of the major tech players offer a free amount of storage to entice you to use their facility. I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 cloud storage facilities to make it easier for you to choose. Most of them also offer a subscription pay monthly service that you could sign up for if you think you are going to need to use more storage than the free offering.
Microsoft One Drive
The One Drive is compatible with IOS/Android and, of course, Windows OS. It’s great if you have a Microsoft account (if you have a Hotmail, MSN or Outlook account you will already have access to the free version of Microsoft office 365) be it the free or subscription service of Microsoft Office 365. If you use Microsoft packages, like Excel or Word, you can access your files from any device as long as you have the One Drive/MS app on your device. If you pay for the yearly subscription you will receive 1TB of storage. If you only want to use the free version you will receive 5 Gigabytes (GB) of free storage.
Google Drive is the cloud offering from Google. They offer 15GB of free storage; this storage space is spread over Gmail, Photos app and G-Drive. You can pay for extra storage with the Google One membership, but it’s worth staying on top of your storage allowance by keeping your email inbox organised. It’s best for those using Android devices.
iCloud is an offering from Apple. It starts with 5GB of free storage, and you will need to pay for any more than that. It can be as little as 79p per month for up to 50GB of storage. If you have an iPhone or Mac you will have access to this when you sign up for your Apple ID. It’s extremely useful for storing infrequently used apps on the cloud, freeing up space on your iPhone.
Dropbox is a standalone cloud service. This means that it only provides storage and nothing else. It has a basic offering of a free 2GB when you sign up for the service. It’s very flexible and can be accessed via your web browser or on an app, on up to three of your devices – whether Windows, Mac, IOS or Android. It has easy sharing functions which are very similar to those used on One Drive and G-Drive. You can share any file or document as a link and collaborate easily with other Dropbox users. The paid-for version is quite expensive per month compared with other cloud accounts, but it does give you a whopping 3000GB of storage.
Amazon Drive and Amazon Photos
Amazon has two main cloud offerings: Amazon drive, for document storage and sharing; and Amazon Photos, for sharing and storing photos and videos. You don’t have to be an Amazon member to get the most out of their cloud offering. They offer free 5GB of storage space over Amazon drive and Amazon photos to all Amazon customers without a Prime membership. If you do have a Prime membership, then they give you free 5GB of storage for Amazon drive and unlimited storage on Amazon photos.
So, there we have it, the five best cloud storage facilities. But, who is to say that you need to choose just one of these cloud services? If you don’t wish to pay for each service you can utilize their free services and have multiple cloud accounts, spreading your documents and photos across them. Just don’t forget your passwords!
Written by Emily Rice in the Restart Team.