With multiple cloud storage plans available, the one you choose should give you enough space for your needs. It should also be secure, reliable and easy to use. These factors will be explored in-depth in this post, hopefully helping you decide which cloud storage provider is right for you.
Cloud Storage Capacity
When choosing a cloud storage provider, one of the major questions is obviously how much storage you really need. Most cloud storage services come with a free version, usually allowing between two gigabytes on up to fifty gigabytes of free space. This allows you to test and see if a service works out for you. But don’t let “free” mislead you into thinking you’re getting all the features that the cloud provider has to offer. These free accounts usually come with restrictions.
Cloud providers offer paid plans, with tiers available from a couple of hundred gigabytes to a few terabytes. Multi-terabyte plans can get pretty expensive, but you can often get a single terabyte of cloud storage for around $10 per month.
If you only need a few gigabytes of online storage, Dropbox is the easiest to use. If you own a Microsoft 365 subscription, then Microsoft’s OneDrive will offer even more storage as part of your subscription.
If you need multiple terabytes, then consider Google Drive. They have storage available up to 30 terabytes (which will cost you around $200 per month.)
Cloud Storage and Security
Another crucial question to ask about cloud storage concerns how much security they provide. Services like Dropbox and OneDrive offer convenience, but they’re certainly not the most secure cloud providers. They simply provide a base level of security, which could include two-factor authentication and encrypting files via a TLS layer. But mainstream cloud providers like this lack end to end encryption. This means your files are not encrypted before they leave your computer. They are only encrypted after the fact using a key that the company controls (and not you).
If you’re looking for strong security for sensitive files, you should look at services such as Sync.com or SpiderOak.com (who offer zero-knowledge privacy).
Sharing Files and Folders
When looking for a cloud storage service, one of your goals is likely to share files with people. The good news is virtually all cloud storage services today have this capability. But some services give you more control over who can see and edit a shared file or folder.
For example, Dropbox offers an all or nothing approach: once a folder shared with somebody, they can do basically whatever they like with its content. This could include deleting files you don’t want to be deleted.
If you need more fine-grained control over file permissions, then other services like Sync.com allow you to give specific rights to users or groups of users. You can then make some files “view only”, or even create an access password to a shared folder. Your choice of a cloud provider will be influenced by how much control you need over your shared files.
Some Other Cloud Storage Features
Let’s look briefly at a few features that you might want to consider and evaluate before choosing a cloud storage provider.
File versioning and deleted file retention
If you’re using a cloud storage service, let’s say you delete a file and then you need it back.
Cloud storage services let you play time traveler and recover all the file’s versions. Some providers go a few versions deep, while other providers allow unlimited versions. File retention is usually the number of days a service keeps files in their storage facilities before deleting them for good. If you accidentally deleted a file and notice it only after two weeks, you need to make sure your cloud service provider has deleted file retention policy of at least fourteen days to recover that file.
File size limitations
There are many services that limit the file sizes you can upload to two gigabytes or even less. If you’re dealing with a lot of large files (for example. video files or raw camera images), you have to make sure to watch the file size limit of each provider you’re carefully evaluating.
Selective file sync
Sometimes you don’t want to sync all of your contents to every single computer or smartphone. Let’s say you have a home computer with multiple terabytes of hard drive space but a laptop with only a small hard drive. You have to make sure you’re only syncing the folders necessary.
Selective syncing gives you this flexibility. Keep in mind that services like Google Drive don’t allow you to check subfolders for selective syncing.
Live document editing
If you’re looking for a live online document editing capabilities, you are limited to the big companies like Google Docs and Microsoft OneDrive with Office Online.
You can also edit documents locally with other cloud storage services. The changes are then saved to the cloud where other people can access the new file version. You can do this sort of local editing on services like Dropbox and iCloud.
You want your most important files to be with you all the time. That’s why many cloud storage services allow you to download a mobile app. This allows you to make files available for offline access on your mobile device.
The quality of the mobile clients is quite variable. These range from simple mobile websites that you need to open your mobile browser to sophisticated native apps that allow you to do the same things you can do on their desktop counterparts.
Good mobile clients will allow you to review coming files like JPG, PDF and Office files. They will even allow you to edit Powerpoint presentations on the fly. This allows you to edit files on the go and update them for your whole team.
Online hard drive functionality or archiving
This feature can pose a risk to some users who trust their files entirely to one single cloud. Some services let you store files online without a local copy on your computer. For example, you can use selective sync to disable all local copies of some folders. Other services offer an archival feature to move files entirely to the cloud to free up hard drive space. Sometimes this is called a vault feature. This can be dangerous because the cloud storage services can lose data or scramble your files in a way that you don’t want. Just be very careful with this feature and only use it for non-essential files.
No matter which cloud storage service you choose, you’re opening up a new world of online sharing and anywhere editing that’s sure to be rewarding. Choose wisely to make sure you get a provider who matches your needs.