Cloud Storage and File Hosting
We’ve spoken on the subject of data backups and how important they are in the past, but we’ve never really explored the different options available in some of the categories of backup methods.
In recent years especially, one of those backup methods has gone from trendy idea to industry standard, and many users find that, for better or for worse, their data is always kept safe in the cloud.
Now, as mentioned before, there are different options available for cloud storage intended for different purposes and users. In fact, with how trendy this type of service has become, every other tech company under the sun wants to get in on the business. At this point, there are probably more clouds on the internet than clouds in the sky!
We’ll be going over some of the most prevalent and popular platforms, as well as the more specialized file hosters, especially those for photos.
Thanks to their significant marketing power, and their advantages when it comes to tying into their other products and services, the most widely used cloud storage providers tend to be, unsuprisingly, the largest players in the tech community already. However, despite the unlevel playing field, alot of smaller services have cropped up over time and, through either unique features, value, or persistence, have managed to grow considerably since their creations.
First off, we have Dropbox. Dropbox is one of the more independent ones here, and was one of the first cloud services to really make it big in the industry. They give users 2 GB of storage for free, and basic plans start at $10 per month for 1 Terabyte of storage. This amount of space is typically more than enough for the average user, and they offer more advanced features like file sharing with special links, recovery of deleted files, viewing of older versions of modified documents, among others. They have even higher plans for business and enterprise customers with more storage and features available.
Next, there’s Google Drive. To be frank, if you’re on the internet frequently, you probably use at least one Google service or another. Between Gmail, Youtube, Google Chrome, Google Earth, Google Search and so many others, it’s kind of hard to avoid at least part of their reach. Also, most of the smartphones in the world run Google’s Android OS. To tie a lot of it together, google provides Google Drive users with 15 GB of free space, which is shared between Gmail, Google Photos, and Google Docs (Google’s free online office productivity suite) as well. Plans start at $2 a month for 100 GB of storage and $10 a month for 1 TB of storage. Storage options extend to a whopping 30 TB if desired, and several amounts in between.
If you own any iDevices or Mac computers from Apple’s venerable lines, there’s a good chance you have run into or had experience with Apple’s own cloud storage, aptly named “iCloud”. iCloud is very well integrated into Apple’s devices, and allows you to store complete backups of said devices online, which can then be accessed from other apps or even used to migrate seamlessly to a newer device if, for example, you were to upgrade to the next iPhone. Larger storage options are available, and to a degree, necessary if you wish to make use of this function, however. Apple starts users off with 5 GB of free storage, and for only $0.99 a month, will give you 50 GB of storage. Plenty for the average iPhone or iPad user. Plans also come in 200 GB and 1 TB flavors for those wishing to back up their Macs or multiple iOS devices for $2.99 and $9.99, respectively.
On the subject of large companies and their cloud storage, Windows 8 and Windows 10 users have probably noticed over the past couple of years an increasing involvement in Microsoft’s productivity tools and, indeed, Windows itself’s affairs by Onedrive, Microsoft’s latest evolution of its cloud service. Fueled by its specialties in productivity, especially in educational and business fields, Microsoft has always understood the importance of the data their software is used to create, and has had cloud service for years now. Onedrive, however, takes things a step further beyond its predecessors such as skydrive et cetera, and, as mentioned before, has become a major component in the Office suite. Users start off with 5 GB of storage for free, with a 50 GB plan for $2 a month, and a 1 TB plan for $6.99 a month which includes Skype minutes and a subscription to Office 365, providing constant access to the latest version of Microsoft Office and all of its components, with updates and upgrades to newer versions as long as the subscription is active. There is also a premium plan for $9.99 a month that includes 1 TB in addition to Microsoft Office per person for up to 5 users, and further business options are available.
Whereas most of our previous entries have been focused on productivity specifically, with the one exception potentially being iCloud, it’s definitely worth mentioning that there are some Cloud service companies that take a more broad and automatic approach. Whereas services like Dropbox, Onedrive, and Google Drive require you to be manually placing files into their folders in order for them to be backed up and synchronized, a service like Carbonite automatically backs up the folders and files that you select without any further intervention required. Like some of the others on this list, it also provides a sort of “backup of previous backups”, in which you can see older versions of files and folders from previous backups, just in case you delete something you didn’t want to, or if you make a change that you want to revert. Carbonite’s encryption is also rock-solid, so any files saved through their service are very secure, which can be very important for business owners. However, as mentioned before, Carbonite is not as focused as other Cloud services, and lacks a lot of the file sharing and collaboration features that others on this list provide. However, in the interest of security alone, Carbonite is one of the best. Carbonite bills yearly instead of monthly. For unlimited storage for one user, it charges $59.99 per year, with a $99.99 option for backing up external drives and devices, should you require more than one storage device backed up.
As many people would agree, the most important files for most are photos. Especially with the proliferation of smartphones and relatively low-cost cameras, it seems that everyone has their own digital photo album, filled with memories they would like to protect. As a result, a good number of file hosting services similar to the previously mentioned cloud storage drives have begun cropping up. These, however, are specialized almost entirely in picture and video media. Storage amounts and features vary. While a host like Yahoo’s Flickr offers up to 1 TB of space for free and focuses on the professional and amateur photography communities, that’s what they’re most focused in. On the other hand. services like Photobucket, Shutterfly, and Snapfish have focuses ranging anywhere from custom designs to photo printing and creative use. In the sense of creative use, these companies may offer anything from custom calendars to coffee mugs and greeting cards, from canvas tote bags to mouse pads, and that’s only to name some of the possibilities that can be worked with the photos of your choosing. Of course, while the safekeeping of their users’ photos is still paramount, providing the ability to express some creativity while doing so is a convenient option for many looking to back up.
The advent of cloud storage and file hosting services has really changed the ways in which we can keep our files with us, and keep our files safe. However, cloud storage is not always the best option for long-term backups, and, like any backup method for important files, should never be counted on alone. Subscription costs can really stack up over the course of the year, and while most services provide the capability to retrieve deleted files within a time period, if you end up needing anything that you deleted to free up space later down the line, recovery will be impossible.
Too often I encounter people who have lost important files or pictures that they will never be able to replace, and even more often I hear the reasoning that there’s “never been a need for a backup”, or that “nothing’s ever gone wrong in the past”. Remember, folks: it only needs to happen once, and that once is too many. Statistically speaking, it’s unlikely that you won’t be afflicted with some form of data loss in your life; from dead hard drives and scratched disks, to dropped laptops or smashed phones, technology can be a delicate thing, so why play that game of Russian Roulette? Backing up your data is something that you will never regret until you don’t do it.
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