Cloud storage isn’t new technology, but to some people it can be confusing to comprehend. Storing data “in the cloud” sounds like your data could be floating around on the web somewhere. While your data is accessible through the Internet, it is in reality residing in massive, redundant data centers. When data is stored in the cloud it means your data is accessible anywhere you have a connection to the internet.
Next you will want to know where exactly is your data and who has access to it. If you are using Dropbox, one of the most popular cloud storage services, it is stored on Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) in multiple data centers located throughout the United States. Amazon’s S3 servers are secure and reliable. With multiple data centers and redundant operations, it’s more reliable than keeping backup copies in your home or work place. Dropbox and Amazon assert the data stored in S3 is completely secure, but you and I both know it is only as secure as an employee’s password who has access to it. There is always a possibility that anyone’s data could be compromised. Yes, it is still pretty secure. But if you are going to store sensitive data in any cloud storage, you should ensure you encrypt it first.
Now you will probably want to know how difficult it is to set up. It is actually really simple. Again let’s use Dropbox as an example. Head over to their website and click the big blue Download Dropbox button. Once it has completed the download process, click Open or Run. There will be some instructions on the screen to guide you. Make sure to pick the option which says “I do not already have a Dropbox account.” You will then have to put in your name, email and a password. Make sure to use a good password – no less than 8 characters, upper and lowercase letters or even at least 1 number or symbol. Don’t use a password you’ve already used before. Next choose the size of the data storage you will require. I would just pick the free 2 GB to begin. Choose typical setup and then you’re done. It’s installed! There’s a little tour to help get started using it. However the basics are that it has created a new folder location called Dropbox on your pc. Now you can save and copy files to the Dropbox folder to store them in the cloud. Additionally, there is some synchronization that you can set up – the tour will go through that for you.
One neat thing about having this cloud storage connected to your computer is after you have files stored in the cloud, you have access to them anywhere you go, as long as you have an Internet connection. Do you want to show pictures of your kids or your grandkids to a friend at a party? Pull out your iPhone or Android phone (with the Dropbox app installed) and pull up those adorable pictures stored in the cloud. What? It’s your lunch hour at the office and wanted to work on your grocery list? Save it to your Dropbox account, it’ll be on your PC when you get home. Plus, it will be on your phone when you’re at the store. How convenient is that?
Now that you’ve got the skinny on cloud storage and Dropbox, here’s just a little teaser to help you comparison shop with some other cloud storage providers – Google Drive, Microsoft’s SkyDrive, and SugarSync.
Google Drive offers 5 GB of free storage as opposed to the 2 GB you get with Dropbox. It’s also relatively inexpensive to add additional space for storage. Google includes a neat feature that allows you to scan an image and if there’s text on the image, it will find it and make it searchable within your storage. Are you religious about saving receipts? That could be a great use for this feature.
SugarSync also provides you with 5 GB of free storage. Just one benefit to their product is that it lets you choose multiple folders to sync to the cloud which most others do not. You could potentially sync “My Documents”, “My Pictures”, and “Desktop” to ensure they’re all kept safe.
Microsoft’s SkyDrive offers the most free storage with 7 GB. Additionally it is very cheap to upgrade. A great benefit of Microsoft’s product is the ability to edit and even create Office documents right from the internet in SkyDrive. It is also nicely integrated with Windows Phone (I know, what’s that?). My spouse has a Windows Phone and loves the integration with SkyDrive. The pictures she takes on her phone are immediately available on the pc. Nice!
Dropbox is probably the easiest to use, but when you go over your free 2 GB, it’s far more expensive to purchase additional storage when compared with Google Drive and SkyDrive. For those who have a lot of data that you would like to sync to the cloud, SkyDrive is going to be your most affordable choice. And if you wish to sync multiple folders without thinking about it, SugarSync’s got what you need.