Most of the people I interact with on a daily basis use their smartphones and computers multiple times every day. Those devices hold their dearest data, including family photos, videos from holidays, favorite bands, and a lot more personal content.
Despite that, very few have gone through the trouble of backing their content up. Of those, an even smaller portion has even heard of cloud storage, let alone uses any kind of cloud service consciously.
What is cloud storage?
For the average user, cloud storage is an extremely simple and convenient tool. The easiest way to think about cloud storage services is like a digital hard drive that can be accessed from any Internet-connected device anywhere in the world.
Basically, you can back up all those photos, videos, music, and documents on a private location on the Internet that only you can access. Most services have free tiers that are sufficient for some important stuff. Other than that, you are expected to pay a monthly or annual fee which is usually quite cheap, especially when considering the security and peace of mind that such services offer.
In this article, we will look at some of the most popular cloud storage services and what they can offer you. This list is by no means exhaustive but it should give you a general idea of how these services work.
Cloud storage: The Internet, the mobile, and the computer
Before we go any further, there is something very simple to understand about cloud storage. First and foremost, all of these services can be accessed via a browser regardless of your current location or device used.
In addition to that, these services also have companion apps for mobile and desktop. For those of you on Windows 10 without tweaks, you will have surely noticed OneDrive sitting comfortably in File Explorer. All the apps I will list here have cross-platform apps, unless stated otherwise.
That is but one example of how cloud storage services can integrate with an operating system. Whenever you drop files in there, they are automatically backed up in the OneDrive cloud. Then, you can access them from any other device simply by logging in to your account.
File-syncing also works in the opposite way though you might sometimes have to enable that behavior as it might be optional and not default. For instance, you might upload something directly to the OneDrive cloud and it will then be made available on your PC’s File Explorer too.
Let us start with Microsoft’s service as it is available by default in most Windows PCs. OneDrive has gone through a lot of changes over the years. If all you are looking for is cloud storage then these changes are likely for the worse as the free version now only allows for up to 5GB of storage, down from 15GB.
Microsoft has focused hard on promoting its Office 365 subscription service and has bundled OneDrive with it as well. 50GB of storage can be acquired for £1.99/month on its own. For those who are willing to pay more, £5.99/month will also net an office 365 Personal subscription with 1TB of storage and additional OneDrive features such as super sharing. Both of these options allow OneDrive to be used in one computer, one phone, and one tablet.
More devices can be used with £7.99/month as that will put you on the Business plan. OneDrive can then be used in up to five devices and across five users, each of which can have up to 1TB of storage.
Dropbox is how many people were introduced into cloud storage services. Dropbox is one of the oldest and most reliable providers of cloud storage and it comes with an array of continuously updated features. It integrated well with third-party services and it also has some neat tricks like sharing large files with a simple link to anyone, even those without Dropbox.
The free service only allows 2GB of storage by default but you can increase that capacity by doing tasks like connecting Dropbox to social media and referring friends to the service. The personal “Plus” plan costs £7.99/month for 1TB of storage though you can effectively get two free months if you pay for a year outright. Business plans start at £12/month/user for 2TB of storage.
If you have an Android device, you have probably seen Google Drive in your phone or tablet. Google’s service is very simple and it comes with several features that should appeal to mobile users. For one, it’s available cross-platform and supports many of Google’s other cloud services such as Google Docs and Sheets.
Moreover, Google is keenly interested in receiving and storing your pictures. In fact, anyone with an Android device has unlimited storage for photos and videos on Google Drive though size and quality restrictions apply. For most, the Full HD quality will be more than enough. If you happen to have a Pixel device, you can even have unlimited storage for original quality media.
Google Drive offers 15GB of free storage with several premium plans starting from £1.59/month for 100GB, £7.99/month for 1TB, and going up to £239.99/month for 30TB.
Apple’s own cloud storage service is also well known and it offers exceptional integration with the company’s devices and services. For instance, anything hosted on iCloud can easily be found though the Mac Finder app without any extra steps.
Another interesting tidbit is that practically everything you do with an iCloud account can automatically be synced to another device, as long as you have the same credentials. So when you migrate to a new iPhone, for instance, you can easily restore your personal data with a few simple steps.
iCloud offers 5GB of free storage with several premium plans as well. 50GB of additional storage comes at £0.79/month, for example, while 1TB goes for £6.99.
These four services should be more than enough for users who are just getting started with cloud storage. There are numerous other services on offer, but these are among the best-known and reliable ones.
If you have any questions about any of these services or would like additional suggestions, please feel free to drop a comment down below!