Cloud Computing: What’s the Best Service for You?

The following post is from Michelle of Mommy Misadventures:

source: Don Nunn

As a busy writer and blogger, I’m always working on something, whether it’s a draft of a new blog post, a hastily scribbled scene for short story or research that I’m doing for a client. The problem is that most of the time, my work and personal files are often scattered between my laptop, my desktop, a tablet and my smart phone. File sharing between my devices is crucial to my daily digital life. (Not to mention my sanity!) And the easiest way for me to gather all of these little files and sync them in one place is to use cloud storage.

What is the cloud?

Cloud computing refers to a variety of computer services that are hosted at a remote company and accessible to a variety of different computing devices using an Internet connection. In the case of cloud storage, you can store your data on remote server and then access it using an application called a client on your computing device. This client automatically syncs your data so that both the server and your devices, so that all of your devices share the

Disadvantages

If there’s one thing I am ultra paranoid about, it’s file security. Strictly speaking, the most secure spot for any digital file is to have a single copy on a non-networked computer with limited physical access. That’s great in theory, but if you live in the real world, completely impractical. Before signing up with any cloud storage service, read the service’s fine print. Since you’re giving a third party access to your files, you need to know that you can trust them to store your files correctly but also to protect your data and not to use it for their own purposes.

Popular Services

Dropbox

  • Free — 2GB; can earn up to 18 GB with referrals
  • Premium plans start at $9.99/month for 20 GB
  • Available for PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android

Dropbox has been around since 2008 and is one of the most popular cloud file sharing services out there. I’ve used Dropbox for several years, and I cannot imagine life without it. Being able to share my files between various operating systems has always been its greatest advantage for me since, until recently, I often split my work between my Linux and Windows machines. If you’ve got a lot of friends and/or are very active in social media, you’ll be interested to know about Dropbox’s referral program. While Dropbox only offers 2 GB of space for its free users, you can earn 500 MB space per referral and gain up to 18 GB worth of free space.

Google Drive

  • Free storage — 5 GB
  • Premium plans start at $2.49/month for 25 GB
  • Available for PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android

Google may be the newcomer to the cloud storage heavyweights, but they’re not to be ignored. One of the differences with Google Drive is that it shares premium storage space with other Google products. For instance, if you buy the premium upgrade of 25 GB for $2.49/month, that extra 25 GBs can be used with either your Google Drive account or your Picasa account. Since the service is so new, it is not yet available for all Google accounts.

I signed up for Google Drive and received access within 48 hours, but your times may vary. I’m a pretty heavy Google user, and I am pretty happy with the service so far. It is very easy to use with the advantage of being very Dropbox-like.

Microsoft SkyDrive

  • Free storage — 7GB (some eligible for 25 GB upgrade)
  • Premium — Additional 20 GB available starting at $10/year
  • Available for PC, Mac, iOS, Windows

Skydrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage service, available to Windows Live users. Users that signed up before April 22, 2012 can currently opt in for 25 GB worth of free storage. Skydrive integrates heavily with Office’s online functions as well as with the Bing search engine and also has social network integration.

To be honest, I haven’t used SkyDrive much. If you are a heavy Windows 7 or Windows Live user, you’ll probably get a lot of use from this particular cloud service.

Apple iCloud

  • Free storage — 5 GB
  • Additional storage available starting at $10/month for 10 GB
  • Available for iOS 5, Mac OS X (Lion), PC

Apple’s iCloud service is Apple’s centralized data service that synchronizes data including photos, calendar and documents between various iOS devices and Mac and PC-based computers. It requires either an iOS 5 device (iPad, iPhone, etc.) or a Mac running OS X Lion to sign up. While Apple gives every iCloud user 5 GB worth of storage, it is worth noting that not all data counts towards this storage amount. (For example, iTunes files that are downloaded from the iTunes store are not counted against this amount.)

While I don’t have a Mac or iOS device myself, after speaking with a few of my Mac-loving friends, I’ve found that most people do appreciate iCloud and its data syncing capabilities though for various reasons, did not use the document sharing functions.

Do you use a cloud storage service? Which is your favorite service?

Michelle Mista is an IT professional, writer and blogger with a love for all kinds of technology. She writes about tech tips and trends for work at home professionals on her portfolio blog and muses about motherhood at Mommy Misadventures. She is on the constant quest to balance life, work and geekery.
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