Online storage solves the file access and backup problems that more and more computer users are experiencing. When you start using multiple devices, such as a tablet for mobile use, a laptop when you’re away from your home base and your desktop in your office, your files always end up on the wrong device when you need them. The same goes for your music and videos. And, like most people, you probably haven’t backed up your work in some time. The best online storage providers address these problems with simple and inexpensive storage solutions.
Uploading your data to an online storage service makes it accessible from any device, anywhere there is an Internet connection. The online copy of your data also acts as a backup, and you can get services that automatically synchronize your online files with the latest versions of the files on your devices. Many services offer a limited amount of storage for free, but the capacity is too low for storing a complete backup for most people. You can purchase extra storage for a low annual or monthly cost and upload everything, creating a comparatively secure backup copy and giving you full access to your data from wherever you are.
Best Online Storage Features
For online storage to work effectively, it has to be fast, easily accessible and with a high, expandable capacity. Free solutions tend to lack at least one of these characteristics, but there are several excellent low-cost providers. Some people prefer to use companies they know and whose services they already use, while others prefer to use a stand-alone solution just for online storage. PCMag has reviews of some online storage companies. The best online storage services have all the essential characteristics and add special features if you need them, as detailed below.
You may know Amazon primarily for its online retail operation, but it is also a leading cloud services provider. Its online storage service is inexpensive, with 5 GB free, and you can buy as much extra capacity as you need at reasonable prices. The service is integrated with the Kindle tablet, but other devices can access the storage via their browsers or mobile apps.
Dropbox popularized online storage and was one of the original providers. You can access the service through a browser, but most people download the software that makes the Dropbox folder act like a native folder on your computer, accessible just like any other file. Dropbox is more expensive, offering only 2 GB for free, but offers file synchronizing, making sure you always access the latest version of each file.
If you already use Google Apps or Gmail, this may be the best solution for at least some of your files. Your email is already stored in the Google cloud, and you can add another 5 GB of free storage on Google Drive. Purchasing extra capacity is inexpensive and Google includes file synchronizing and file sharing.
Apple device users should all be using iDrive to backup and synchronize some of their files. The service is well-integrated into the Apple device infrastructure and it comes with 5 GB free storage. In addition, stored music doesn’t count against your limit. The service is more expensive than the basic ones and complicated to use for synchronization and sharing. If you’re looking for large capacity plain storage, a separate standalone service may be your best bet for the bulk of your files.
Microsoft is another major player in the cloud industry and offers the SkyDrive service as their online storage component. It offers the most free storage at 7 GB, and additional capacity is inexpensive. Non-Windows users have to access the service through a browser, but it is integrated with the File Manager application of Windows 8, and works seamlessly with MS Office as well. It offers file synchronization and file sharing.
Another one of the original online storage providers, Box offers 5 GB of free storage, and extra capacity is inexpensive, especially if you need hundreds of Gigabytes. The service offers file synchronizing and advanced sharing options. Unlike other services, you can assign file permissions that define who can view and edit files.
The best online storage service is the one that does everything you need at a reasonable cost and without any complications. For Windows, Apple, Kindle and Google users, that may be the SkyDrive, iDrive, Amazon and Google Drive services, although some users may prefer to avoid putting all their eggs in one basket. If you change platforms a lot, using a PC with your iPad or an Android tablet with your Windows laptop, you may find that the integration of these services with their native operating system gets in the way. In that case Dropbox is a good generic alternative and Box is a good option, especially if you need business-style permissions and restrictions.