A list of free cloud storage services that keep your data secure and accessible.
The days of external hard drives are numbered as Cloud storage takes control. Instead of transferring your data to a physical hard drive, Cloud storage services allow you to upload individual files – or your entire hard drive - to the Cloud, a series of non-centralized servers. Not only is this solution often cheaper and more secure than using an external hard drive or backup disk, but you can also access your data from anywhere.
Dropbox – 2GB
Dropbox was one of the first cloud storage systems around, and remains one of the most popular, even though the amount of free storage offered is significantly lower than other services. Although Dropbox members start off with only 2GB free storage, this is still more than enough for users who want to back up the odd file or share pictures and documents.
Savvy users can acquire up to 18GB free storage by referring friends, and Dropbox offers solutions to small businesses and teams that allow up to 1TB worth of storage for a fee. Dropbox’s structure makes it perfect as a collaborative tool as well as a file storage system, as you can share entire folders with other members, and transfer documents or files that are too large to email.
Google Drive – 5GB
Google Drive is integrated with Google Docs, so you can access your documents from anywhere and share them instantly. In addition, you can upload files and documents from your hard drive and share them via Google Drive instead of using email. Any pictures you upload to GD are available through Google+, making it easier to share images with your contacts, even if they haven’t signed up to Drive.
One of Google Drive’s most impressive features is the ability to open over 30 different file types within your browser, even if you don’t have the correct software installed on your computer. This includes formats like Adobe Illustrator, HD Video, and Photoshop.
Amazon Cloud Drive – 5GB
Amazon Cloud Drive enables you to upload and store data using your Amazon account. Any MP3s you purchase through Amazon are automatically added to your Cloud Drive, and you can access them from any online device with the Cloud Player.
Amazon also offer paid storage accounts up to 1,000 MB for an annual fee. For a limited time, all paid storage accounts have unlimited storage for music, so any songs you upload don’t count towards your storage limit.
SkyDrive – 7GB
SkyDrive by Microsoft runs on computers, smartphones and tablets, giving you access to your data wherever you can get online. The system is simple: any files you add to your SkyDrive desktop folder will be synced across all devices.
You can also use SkyDrive to access folders you forgot to sync on any Windows PC. SkyDrive for Windows gives you the option to be able to retrieve folders on your computer from anywhere in the world using your Skydrive.com account.
iCloud – 5GB
iCloud is Apple’s Cloud storage system, and MobileMe users automatically get 2GB extra storage for free. With an iCloud account, any purchased music, movies, apps, books, TV shows, or photos from your photo stream don’t count towards your iCloud storage limit.
In addition to functioning as a data storage facility, iCloud is designed to make life smoother for Apple fans. If you own a Mac computer and one or more iDevices, iCloud allows you to sync documents through software like Pages, Numbers and Keynote without having to save work or manually transfer the files. It also automatically syncs calendars between your desktop and your devices, so you never have to add an event more than once.
When 5GB isn’t enough, users can purchase up to an extra 50GB for an annual fee.