Do you store files in the cloud? Whether for business or for personal use, a great many of us are using cloud storage to securely house our photos, documents, and other digital assets.

What makes the cloud so powerful is its capacity as a remote storage box. Rather than storing your files locally on your computer's hard drive, a cloud service allows you to store them in the cloud. Technically speaking, this is storage housed on the service provider’s own servers, with your data encrypted. Through cloud storage, you can access your files from any physical location so long as you have an Internet connection.

If you don’t yet use online cloud storage, you could be missing out.

Why Use Cloud Storage

Why should you store your files online in the cloud? There are a few reasons to do so, especially if you have a large number of files (photos, documents, etc).

It’s faster

Have you ever noticed your smartphone slowing down when you have a lot of photos stored? When the storage on a device grows full, the performance typically begins to wane. The cloud is designed to reduce pressure on local resources. With less demand on your local storage capacities you can free up your devices to work faster, AND you can access your files more quickly when they are stored in the cloud. This yields to higher productivity all around.

You can access your files from anywhere

Perhaps the number one benefit of the cloud is its accessibility. Want to check an important document while on holiday? Need to find your favourite family photo when you’re away from home? So long as you have an Internet connection (and a connected device) you can upload, download, view, or even edit your files. Where you’ll access them depends on the service you choose. For instance, if you use Google Drive for remote storage, you can get to your files from the desktop interface or the Google Drive mobile app.

It’s safer

In many ways, cloud storage is more secure than local storage. It’s extremely rare to lose data via a cloud service, with their redundancy (multiple copies) and remote server storage. But local devices can fail---and often do---when we least expect it. Having your important documents and precious photographs stored in the cloud ensures you can’t lose them due to a disk failure. Because of this, cloud storage can offer peace of mind.

Cloud storage makes it easy to share files/collaborate with others

With items stored in the cloud, sharing is as simple as forwarding a link to your colleague. Some services allow cloud-based editing, where any change made by a collaborator is stored and visible to all who can access the document. Typically, the changes show up in real-time, so you can be collaborating with someone remotely without delay. This is far much more efficient than sending a document back and forth as an email attachment. All because of cloud storage.

Cloud services can often integrate with other programs

Finally, cloud services are useful because most of them work well with other programs you use in your life and work. They can integrate with your email, task management programs, and more, making your life a lot easier and more fluid.

So which online cloud storage services are best? We’ve taken a look at a handful of the most popular and widely-used to show you what you can expect from each one.

Dropbox

One of the best-known cloud storage providers is Dropbox. A free account on Dropbox gives you 2GB of storage, which isn’t a huge amount, but you can increase it up to 16GB simply by linking Dropbox to your Twitter or other social media accounts or by referring friends to Dropbox (you receive an additional 500MB of storage for every friend who joins). You can also pay a monthly fee for a much larger storage capacity.

Dropbox’s paid subscription is called Dropbox Pro. For $99 USD per year, it includes 1TB of online storage space. Along with this fairly generous storage, Pro gives you access to priority support if you need troubleshooting or real-time assistance when using the service.

Dropbox is very easy to use because it can be used with virtually any device. Dropbox has an app for nearly every operating system, and the service integrates seamlessly with a huge variety of other common programs. This makes Dropbox fit easily into your work and life; once it’s installed as an app or on a desktop, it’s practically invisible, syncing with your desired settings in the background.

If you use Dropbox Pro you have some additional functionality with file storage and sharing. A small additional monthly fee (or yearly fee) supplies you with Extended Version History which stores deleted files and previous versions of files for up to one year---without consuming your valuable space.

Looking for a cloud storage service for work? Dropbox Business could be a good choice. This enables users to collaborate in the cloud and gives each user a personal Dropbox account with unlimited storage, in addition to the shared 2TB of storage for the business account. For security and peace of mind, Dropbox Business offers features such as file recovery and unlimited deletion and version history. Dropbox Business costs $12.50 USD per user per month (billed annually). This plan requires a minimum of three users. Need even more? There is an Advanced Plan which provides unlimited storage plus advanced administrative controls.

Google Drive

Google Drive is a favourite online storage home for many. With the popularity and ease-of-use of Google products, many users find it incredibly easy to use Google Drive for their day-to-day storage needs.

One of Google Drive’s advantages is that it is more than just a cloud storage provider. There’s a great deal you can do right within Google Drive that makes the service extremely worth it.

Using Google Drive is free and comes with an ample amount of free storage. 15GB is available to users at no charge, and documents created with Google Drive-related programs (such as Google Docs and Google Sheets) don’t count towards your storage total. If you do need additional storage space, the paid options are very reasonable. An extra 100GB is priced at just $1.99 USD per month and even a whopping 2TB is only $9.99/mo.

Like Dropbox, Google Drive supplies seamless file-syncing across devices. By downloading the app or program on your mobile phone and computers, your work will be accessible among all the devices, with any file changes syncing effortlessly. Just be sure you have a good Internet connection so syncing can occur without a hitch.

Drive’s companion apps, Docs, Slides, etc. may be part of what makes this service so appealing. It can function as a one-stop-shop for all your file creation, storage, and sharing needs, which is a tremendous benefit to productivity. You can also convert most file formats into Drive-friendly formats, making compatibility with other programs even easier.

OneDrive

OneDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage service. It’s been around since 2007 (though it was formerly known as SkyDrive), so it’s been a major player for years in the cloud storage game.

OneDrive could be a terrific option for photo storage. Unlike some of the other options on our list, OneDrive can help you find your stored photos with tremendous ease. You can search for images by filename, metadata, and even object recognition, which was added in 2017. This means that OneDrive search can help you locate an image based on what is contained within that image, such as a cat, car, or receipt.

OneDrive has a fairly small free storage offering. Just 5GB comes with your free account. But the pricing for storage increases is quite fair. Just $6.99 USD per month grants you 1TB, but it comes with Office 365, too.

Like other cloud services, OneDrive has fast, easy file-syncing on multiple devices. It also offers simple file-sharing, and you can control permissions for those you share with, allowing them to view, download, or edit a shared file.

OneDrive does not have the long versioning history offered by Dropbox. It offers just 30 days of versioning. It also has a file size limit of 10GB, which could be a problem if you’re looking to store larger files in the cloud.

MEGA

For those looking for extra-tight security, MEGA is the cloud service you’ll want to consider. This New Zealand-based provider offers zero-knowledge security, which differentiates it from most of the other cloud storage providers on this list.

Zero-knowledge encryption is the leading way to keep your data private. It means that the access to and knowledge of your data/files is completely your own. Even your cloud service provider does not have access to it. The emphasis on security is a strong selling-point for MEGA.

MEGA works via desktop clients, a web interface, and mobile applications. It even has a desktop client for Linux, which is another point that sets MEGA apart from other cloud services.

MEGA offers free users 15GB of storage space (the same as Google Drive). When you first sign up, you do receive some initial boosts in storage (including 50GB for your first month), but this doesn’t last. To maintain a higher storage limit, you’ll need to upgrade to one of the paid MEGA plans, Pro Lite, Pro I, and Pro II. If you have a huge collection of photos or large files such as video to store, the higher-end plans are a good value. The 4TB plan runs at $20 USD per month while you can have a gigantic *TB for $30 monthly.

pCloud

pCloud is another cloud storage possibility that boasts impressive security features. Similar to MEGA, pCloud allows you to create end-to-end encrypted folders with zero-knowledge encryption, so that only you can have access to this data. But the security elements can be used in other ways, too. When sharing a link to a file, you can set a password for access, giving an extra layer of security to your file. You can also select an expiration date for a link, so that someone you share a file with can only access it for a certain amount of time. This is ideal for more tightly-securing your files.

Need a large amount of storage space? You may be awed by pCloud’s competitive pricing. For $8 USD per month, you can have 2TB of space. If you’re working with lots of heavy files such as high-resolution images or video files, this large capacity is ideal. Plus, pCloud also supports high-definition video storage. Even the free plan with pCloud doesn’t skimp on the storage capabilities. You can access 10GB of space for free.

Users can access pCloud on unlimited devices, connecting via desktop clients or mobile apps. There is Linux compatibility with pCloud, which is a rarity among cloud services, as well as WebDAV, which allows you to access your pCloud storage from other third-party tools using WebDAV.

Unlike options such as Google Drive, you cannot edit files directly within pCloud, which could be a disadvantage. But with fast file syncing and the ability to stream media from the cloud (among a few other unique features), pCloud is definitely worth looking into.

Which is your preferred option for cloud storage?

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