Choose Online Cloud Storage that is Accessible and Secure

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Cloud storage is the practice of housing data in a remote location. That picture of the hamburger you ate for lunch—when you posted it on Facebook, you put it in the cloud; now it can be accessed from any device that has an internet connection, rather than being stored only on your phone’s hard drive. This ease of access is the cloud’s main draw for many people, whether they’re using it in a personal or professional capacity. There are numerous cloud storage services available online that provide varying degrees of accessibility and security to suit your needs.

How the Cloud Works

As the truism goes, there is no cloud, there’s just someone else’s computer. The cloud isn’t a proper thing in itself; it’s a means of storing and access files and information. In its storage capacity, the cloud is sort of like an external hard drive or a flash drive. Instead of connecting it to your computer with a USB port, you instead connect to it via the internet. Just as media distribution is swinging heavily away from locally stored media on CDs and DVDs and toward online streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, so data storage is likewise trending toward remote storage and access. Cloud storage services operate huge facilities called data centers, which consist of climate controlled, carefully guarded warehouses full of servers that run constantly. When you store files in the cloud, they are housed in these data centers—not just one, but in multiple different ones, possibly on different continents. Should one of these facilities suffer some mishap, your information will still be available thanks to the backup versions on other, distant servers.

The Perks of the Cloud

The cloud’s greatest benefit is that it cuts down on cost and risk. The cloud is like a utility, such as water or electricity: you pay for what you use. The other great benefit of this utility is the security and convenience it provides. Consider your own file storage needs. Rather than shelling out for a 500 gigabyte hard drive, you can rent 500 gigabytes of cloud space for a few dollars a month. If that’s not enough space, you can rent more, rather than going and buying yet another hard drive. You’ll never have to worry about leaving important data at home or at the office, and you’ll never run the risk of losing or damaging the device in transit. The same is true for business use as for personal. Before clouds, businesses had to project the amount of storage space and processing power necessary to maintain growth, buy the necessary hardware and technical support and then hope they hit the nail on the head (rather than failing to fully utilize their investment or outgrowing that as well). Now, organizations can rent whatever they need from an appropriate provider. There are a number of different cloud services available. Most of them offer limited, free accounts. Some of them are for general file storage, while other provide features tailored to specific needs and purposes.

There’s a Cloud for That

As you might expect, digital powerhouses Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Apple all offer cloud services. As you might also suspect, Microsoft OneDrive and Apple iCloud are more or less custom-built for their respective operating systems and apps; the iCloud is a good choice for anyone using multiple Apple products, while Windows 8 and up sync directly with OneDrive, keeping all your files up-to-date in real time. If you’re interested in an efficient third-party storage solution, Dropbox offers similar file synchronization. Additionally, Dropbox also offers free ways of upgrading your storage space and provides a clean, elegant user interface. Google Drive also provides all Google users with free storage space. Amazon Drive’s free cloud storage currently only extends to photographs, but file storage can be purchased for a relatively modest annual subscription. If privacy is one of your top concerns, SpiderOak and Mega offer solutions. Both of these boast excellent security encryption; SpiderOak employees cannot access the data you store on their servers, and Mega does not even store user passwords or encryption keys. This, likewise, makes it extremely difficult for anyone else to access your files. And if that’s not good enough, perhaps you should invest in an underground bunker. Box (not to be confused with Dropbox) is built for business. Much like Google’s online utility suite which features spreadsheets, word processing, file storage, and other services, Box is tailored for online collaboration. People can sign up and use it for personal file storage as well, but the features and perks are aimed at facilitating productivity in the virtual environment. This is a small sampling of the many cloud services available. As noted, most offer limited accounts for non-paying users, which typically limits storage space allotment and maximum file size. Some will offer limited time trials, which is really only useful for short-term storage needs. These services’ premium, paid accounts offer expanded space, support and features. No matter your needs, there’s a cloud out there that’s right for you.