Cloud storage, why do I need it?

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You don’t need me to tell you that in today’s media content is king. The internet is hungry for text, images, and video, and with the rapid adoption of VR and other technologies, this is only set to increase. When you get out there and create content,you are carrying your livelihood around with you. Your product is with you.
So you are out and about and creating files. Documents, photos, videos, music…where are you going to keep them? In your pocket? In your bag? Mobile devices and flash drives are prone to damage or theft, do you want to risk your only copy on a puddle? A nudged coffee? But don’t fear, the cloud is here! Cloud storage offers you the ability to instantly back up what you’ve collected and created while you are still out in the field. It can be stored and delivered anywhere in the world before you have even zipped up your bag.
But you don’t want to add another cost to your business? Well it can be worth investing a little (and it really is a little) but you can get started for free and, if it suits you, keep it free.
There are loads of services offering cloud storage solutions, often initially free, and with a premium account on offer to increase the storage available if it’s needed. I’m going to look at a few that I’ve tried and tested, focusing on the features they offer.
If you just want to pass a handful of files back and forth between devices, as a temporary backup until you return to base, then the free accounts will most likely service your needs. If you are a serious user requiring a hefty chunk of storage you can pay for the reliability and ease of a service that does all the work for you, or you could check out one of the available self storage options. These turn your own hard drive at home or even a file server/NAS (network attached storage) into your own personal cloud drive, giving you the full size of your hard drive as your limit.
Lets look at some of the options:


Free/Premium cloud storage:

  You can’t talk about cloud storage without mentioning Dropbox. The name is so well known, for most it’s synonymous with personal and business storage. So what do you get? A free account will start you off with 2GB of storage. That’s not a lot actually, think how fast you fill a 16GB smartphone? But that’s not actually all you get. You can earn more! The methods on offer change from time to time but consistently you can earn +250mb for completing the “getting started” 7 steps. Then there’s +500mb per successful friend referral. I have my account up to the odd figure of 5.38GB. Now that’s still not huge but don’t forget, I’m getting that, plus browser access, plus apps that run on my desktop/laptop, tablet, and phone all for free! That’s pretty much any PC, tablet, and smartphone too. They have apps for Windows, OSX, iOS and Android and it runs under Linux too but that can be reliant on the distro you use. You can also use Dropbox as a conduit, sharing a file of any size by sending a link to anyone, even if they don’t have a Dropbox account…not too shabby!
Still not enough? They have you covered. For £7.99 per month you can upgrade to a premium account and get…wait for it…1TB!


Ok, obviously there’s an immediately obvious drawback here. It’s an Apple product so it’s not going to be nearly as widely available as Dropbox and others. If you are an Apple user this won’t hold you back much. An iCloud account gets you 5GB to start. That’s straight away, no hoops to jump through. Yes that is better than Dropbox at first glance but you have to buy an Apple device to get that 5GB…so not nearly as cheap actually, even though the 5GB itself is free. iCloud can be accessed on the device with built in software, and on a Mac or PC using the iCloud app. In typical Apple style this is restricted in it’s function and just not as easy to use on the desktop side.
If you want more space though this is where iCloud can come into it’s own. For 79p a month you get an attention grabbing 50GB. For £2.49 you get 200GB, and if that 1TB is still ringing in your ears, for £6.99 you get 1TB. That’s a whole pound cheaper than Dropbox, but, with a price paid in usability and access, especially if you are an Android user.


The Android equivalent of iCloud? Not quite. Google supplies apps for iOS devices as well as it’s own Android operating system and it’s browser access is usable pretty much everywhere. Then there is the difference on space on offer. Right off the bat you get 15GB for free. That’s 3x what iCloud offers and over 7x the default Dropbox account. What is puzzling is where they go from there. The only upgrade offered in the app itself appears to be a £14.99 per year (not month) 100GB upgrade. That’s not actually all they offer though. You can go for the 100GB at $1.99 (£1.37) per month, or you can get your 1TB for $9.99 (£6.90) but here is where the possibilities take off:


10TB $99.99 p/m  (£69.05)
20TB $199.99 p/m (£138.11)
30TB $299.99 p/m  (£207.16)


So if you have an uncontrollable cloud habit and don’t mind paying you can store up to 30TB…which should last you for years or maybe 2 of your kid’s parties (yeah I’ve seen your Facebook albums people!)


I could carry on with this list ad-infinitum but I won’t. In the Free/Premium storage range there is one more worth an honorable mention because it stands out despite being less well known – Tresorit:
The concept with “Tresorit” is very similar to Dropbox but you create “tresors”. These are file shares that can be shared just between your devices or with whoever you wish. The free version allows you to create up to 5 tresors. It’s very secure with end to end encryption (it turns your data into a jumble of unreadable data in transit and de-cyphers it at the other end). It work with a wide range of devices (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and even Blackberry). It has built in conflict resolution to cater for a scenario where more than one person is editing the file at once. They even have a freelancers specific option. 100GB for 10 Euros (£7.78) and £12.80 for 1000GB on a business account.


Further options are:


Self Store:

  So what if you are paranoid about others having access to or storing your valuable files? It’s not too much of an issue with the encryption and security on offer but if you are ultra cautious or just don’t like the idea of being limited, there’s another option. You can choose self storage. That’s right, you can turn your own hard drive at home or in the office into a personal cloud file store that you are in full control of and you decide who has access to it. There’s a few options in this category but I’ll focus on two that stand out for what they offer.


   Younity’s main benefit is how quick and easy it is to set up. You install it on your desktop and your laptop or mobile. The Younity site provides a conduit that connects the ends together and you stream files directly to and from your hard drive. It’s important to note there is no uploading or syncing to Younity’s servers. They just provide the link to point your devices to each other. Your data is never stored online. It’s on your device and on your destination hard drive. That’s it! It works with Windows and Macs, Android and iOS. The price? Free! Yep zero, zip, nada! totally free. The limit…how big is your hard drive? It really is a case of creating an account, installing the software and you are done. Note, you will have to leave your PC/Mac running to have access to it’s hard drive remotely.


  Ok, this is incredible, Owncloud! An open source free piece of software that offers an amazing range of features and flexibility. It does what it says on the tin, your own cloud storage but so much more too.
It takes just a little more knowledge than the other options but really it’s still simple to set up and well documented with videos and a support community. You can install Owncloud on your home or work PC/Mac, on a server, and even directly run it from a NAS (networked attached storage) so you don’t have to leave your computer running to have access to your files. That amazing range means you can have dedicated file server hardware for access to serious amounts of data and it can be as good as whatever hardware you have. You can start with just a desktop you leave running or go straight to a file server that can be backed up (even to other cloud services), run on RAID (RAID copies the files to multiple hard drives at once for redundancy), a fully encrypted file system…basically whatever you have you can access it and get some very useful features.
Owncloud has a web interface you can use to access the files and administer the store. You can add and remove storage as you see fit without having to set it up again. You can share and collaborate on files with anybody you want to, up to 5 individuals can edit the file at the same time with the versioning handled for you. Files are synced to your desktop and mobile. There’s an activity feed that keeps you informed about what is happening with your data using notifications…but wait there’s more! You can sync your calendars and contacts. It has versioning and undelete so you can retrieve files that would otherwise be lost. Share galleries direct from the software and let others upload, download, and comment on them. And finally, some truly awesome features, you can play music and watch movies using the app and even store you passwords. There’s over 250 add on applications. It really is a great solution for just a little bit of effort.

So what are you waiting for. Get connected! Get secure backup and instant sharing! Work smart with one of these efficient, safe options…


…wait…before you go:

  Did you get an account? Did you get more than one? If you want an app that will handle all of your accounts rather than an app per account check out Otoxio. You can collect together all of your accounts and use it to organize and share your files across the different clouds. Move files from your personal store to a customer shared store all inside one app.

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