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The Best Cloud Storage Services for Your Laptop

Learn everything you need to know about cloud storage and what services give you the best options for your storage needs.

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The Best Cloud Storage Services for Your Laptop

With file sizes growing and the need to access your files on the go, the age of files stored on your local computer seems to be fading especially with the introduction of popular chromebooks on the market.  Today, cloud storage is all the rage and is used by millions around the globe for everything from family photos to important and confidential work documents.

But for those of you that don’t know, what exactly is cloud storage?  What are the benefits and drawbacks?  And what services should you consider using for your home or business.  Today, I am here to answer those questions and to help you make the best cloud storage decisions for your needs.  That way you can gain access to cloud storage solutions that will meet your needs.

What Is Cloud Storage

The term, “cloud storage,” can be confusing to many out there who aren’t, as we say, “tech savvy.”  That’s okay, though.  Because we are here to help.  Basically, cloud storage is storage that is stored in the cloud.  I know that sounds like I’m just saying the same thing in a different way.  Maybe I am.  What it means is it is storage that is stored somewhere else on the Internet.  So, if you have say 20GB of cloud storage, you have 20GB reserved for you on server that is operating by someone else out there on the Internet.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Cloud Storage

Using cloud storage brings with it many different benefits and even a few drawbacks.  Understanding both the good and the bad of cloud is important if you want to make a decision about whether or not you want to use cloud storage.  First, let’s take a look at a few of the benefits of cloud storage before we get to any of the drawbacks.

  1. Access Your Files Anywhere – One of the greatest aspects of the cloud is the ability to access your files from almost anywhere. You no longer have to be tied to a specific hard drive when you keep your files on the cloud.
  2. Free Yourself From Backup Worries – The loss of a hard drive can be devastating if you store your entire life on it and don’t back it up to some other location. If your files are in the cloud, you can easily access them no matter what happens to your local machine.
  3. Reduce the Amount of Files Stored Locally – Hard drive space can be a premium especially on laptops. If you move your files to the cloud, you can free up space on your hard drive so you don’t have to worry about running out of space.  If your cloud starts filling up, just add a little more storage for a small fee and your problem is solved.
  4. Access Your Files Using Multiple Devices – These days it is more important than ever to have your files stored somewhere where you can access them with multiple devices. You may need to open a document on a tablet to show a customer or sit down at night on your desktop and update a file.  With the cloud you can open your files on all your devices and save them in one location so you never have to worry about making sure you have the exact version of the file you need ever again.

Now that we have a sense about all of the good cloud storage can bring us, it is time to stop for a moment and examine the drawbacks to using it so you are aware of everything before you choose to go with the cloud for your storage needs.

  1. Internet is a Must – As you may have guessed, you must have Internet access in order to use your files stored on the cloud. If your Internet is down or you are travelling and in an area without good coverage, you may not be able to access files.  Most of the leading services do offer ways for you to download and sync your files if you are going to be away from Internet access, but not all of them are on by default.
  2. Security Issues – In the age of data breaches, security is always a concern. When you store your files on your local laptop, you know where they are and who is accessing them, assuming you haven’t contracted some type of virus.  With cloud storage, your files are only as strong as your password and sometimes that isn’t even enough.
  3. User Confusion – This one sounds a bit generic, I know. What I mean by it is simply this.  Most users aren’t familiar with exactly how cloud storage works, especially in the beginning.  This can lead to confusion about how your files are stored, what files are being stored and even how you access them.  Admittedly, this will go away with time, but it does present a little bit of a learning curve which can be challenging to some users.

The Best Cloud Storage Solutions

Now that we know what cloud storage is and what some of the biggest benefits and drawbacks are, it is time to take a look at some of the leading consumer level cloud storage solutions out there.  These solutions are designed to meet the needs of all types of users and you can usually modify the amount of storage you get with just a few clicks of your mouse.

The main cloud storage leaders today are:

  • Dropbox
  • Onedrive
  • Google Drive
  • Amazon
  • iCloud

All of these services come with their own feature and ways of doing things and handling files.  Let’s take a closer look at each one so you can choose the best cloud storage solution for your needs.

dropboxDropbox

One of the earliest leaders in cloud storage solutions, Dropbox was one of the first to offer free and subscription based cloud storage solutions.  It is available cross platform including Windows, Mac and even Linux, and it is available for both iOS and Android.  This makes Dropbox one of the best solutions for anyone that uses multiple computer types.  Dropbox will give you 2GB of storage for free, and you can expand that all the way up to 1TB (1,000GB) for just under $10 a month.

onedriveOnedrive

Onedrive is Microsoft’s entry into the cloud storage field, and I must admit this is the one that I have chosen for my household.  Currently, you get 15GB for free from them when you sign up for a Microsoft account, which you will want to do anyway if you use Windows and want to be able to purchase and download apps from the store.  At the same time you can easily upgrade it for around $5 a month.  That will not only get you 1TB of storage, but also access to Office 365, the latest version of Microsoft Office.  If you have multiple people in your household, for around $8 you can get it for up to 5 users and each user gets 1TB of storage for a grand total of 5TB of storage space.  This is by far one of the best overall plans and you get Office to use at the same time.  That, in my opinion, is pretty tough to beat.

google-driveGoogle Drive

Google was another early adopter of cloud storage solutions, but they do things a little different.  In addition to the cloud storage, you also gain access to their Google Docs software that includes a word processor, spreadsheet application, and more.  By using Google Docs, you can almost get rid of Microsoft Office altogether.  However, you can only store these documents on your cloud storage, which some may not find too appealing.  The service is available cross platform although you won’t find Linux support in the mix, but it does have both Android and iOS compatibility.  Google offers 15GB free for all their users with a Gmail account and that amount can be upgraded to 100GB for $1.99 a month or 1TB for $9.99 a month, whichever works best for you.

amazon-cloud-driveAmazon Cloud Drive

It seems Amazon has their fingers in everything these days, and that includes cloud services and storage.  Anyone who happens to be a prime member already has access to this type of storage, but it can easily be upgraded.  To be frank, this is my least favorite option and that is mainly due to the pricing.  Like other services, you start out with 5GB of free storage.  But if you want to upgrade, it will cost you.  For example, 1TB of storage will cost you $500 a year.  You can always opt for a smaller plan such as the 100GB option for $50 a year.  Still, overall these prices are a little more expensive than the competitors.  However, if you are already deep into the Amazon ecosystem with e-readers, Prime membership, Amazon streaming, etc., then this cloud storage may be the best option for you so you keep everything under one roof.

icloudiCloud

For a time, Apple’s iCloud storage was reserved only for those users who had a Mac or those using an iPad or iPhone.  However, with the most recent updates, you can now use iCloud on your PC as well.  All you have to do is download one little handy app.  Of course, if you are a Mac user, iCloud is definitely one of the most convenient and easy ways to store all your files and data.  Out of the gate all iCloud users are given 5GB of storage at no charge.  That can be updated with the rates that start at 50GB for $0.99 a month, 200GB for $3.99 a month or 1TB for $9.99 a month depending on your needs.

Conclusion

As you can see, cloud storage is the “in” thing today.  It is pretty easy to use and it is a very cost effective solution for any user looking to move their files off their local computers to a more secure location that can be accessed from virtually anywhere.  While you will have to have an Internet connection to use them effectively, cloud storage can make it simple for you to have one central location for all your files that is regularly backed up and safe no matter what may happen to your local computer.  Today I recommend everyone use at least some form of cloud storage, whether it is the free solution for just the most important files or one of the subscription services for all your data, cloud storage can be a one stop solution for all your file storage needs.

So what type of cloud storage do you use?  Let me know in the comments below and tell me why you chose that particular solution for your file storage needs.  I would love to hear what you think about it.

By Matt Garrett

Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing on our sister ShopNinja sites where he enjoys talking about anything and everything tech.

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