Store Your Files Free “In The Cloud”
As handy as flash drives are for backing up computer files or moving them from computer to computer; a lot of the flash drives’ usefulness is being eclipsed by “the cloud”.
Several companies are offering storage, like disk storage, via the internet, “in the cloud”. As long as you are connected to the internet, you can access this storage.
Good news for all of us; the competition to offer these services has become so lively that some amount of free storage has become the requisite method of attracting new customers. Big names are involved, so it is quite safe to take the free offers: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, IBM, to name just a few.
How does this cloud storage work, is it safe, what can we store there, and is it really free? Oh; and where can we get it?
Simplified: the cloud, in this case, is yet another use of the internet. Where the web is a way of using the internet to share or find information, the cloud is a way to make services available via the internet. An online backup service – like Carbonite – is in the cloud.
Storage in the cloud comes about when someone like Amazon or Google makes vast warehouses of physical storage, spread around the world, available via a single address on the internet.
One way to connect with cloud storage is through a web page interface. Sign up for an account and then upload files from your computer to the cloud storage. Then log in at another time or from any computer and select the file or files that you’ve already saved there and download them again. This is handy for moving large files, or large numbers of files – just as you would with a flash drive, but without the trouble of actually buying, plugging in, carrying around, and risking losing a flash drive. Just upload it to the cloud.
Another way to use cloud storage is to have your computer treat it as if it was an actual disk drive connected to your computer. This type of connection uses special software on your computer. It isn’t available with every cloud storage service, but it is becoming more common.
Is it safe to store data in the cloud? Basically; yes. True, the data is “out there” on the internet, but it is stored under your password lock and key: both for access and for encryption. Before it leaves your computer, the data that you send is scrambled up in such a way that no ordinary or even extraordinary person would be able to read it without your password to decode it. That’s safer than a flash drive that has fallen out of your pocket.
On the other hand, if you’re not connected to the internet, then you won’t be able to retrieve your data. There is that. But, these days, how often does that happen? Restaurants have internet connections. Even some cars come with internet connections!
What can be stored in the cloud? Any data file that you can store on your computer can be stored in the cloud. Documents, photos, music, programs and so on. Basically; anything.
Some cloud services are geared to give extra help for things like photos and music, like Google’s “Picasa” for photos and Amazon’s “Cloud Player” for music. Some are designed to help with general back up services, like the previously mentioned Carbonite while others are set up to be very helpful just moving files around from computer to computer or person to person, like “Dropbox” (Dropbox.com).
Is it really free, or is there a catch? No; it really is free. The catch is that the free services are limited to a few gigabytes total and you’ll have to pay if you want more space from the same service provider. The free services may also limit file sizes but the size limits are usually pretty large.
For example; Google gives away 2GB of storage and limits uploaded files to 250MB. That’s large enough to upload an entire symphony in mp3 form. At Amazon’s new “Cloud Drive” they give away 5GB of storage and the upload size is basically unlimited.
By the way, compare that to around $20 for a 4GB flash drive. Free… $20… Free… $20….
The bottom line is this: flash drives are still handy when you’re not connected to the internet, but when you are connected “the cloud” is the way to go.
So; where do you find this free storage in the cloud? Here are a few names and addresses on the web (in alphabetical order), but just search “cloud free storage” to find many more.
Amazon “Cloud Drive”: http://tinyurl.com/AmzCloudDrive gives you 5GB free, plus more free to store any music purchased at Amazon.com, plus will give you 20GB free if you purchase one music album for as low as 99 cents!
Dropbox: http://www.dropbox.com is a very handy, and quite easy place to store, and share any files.
Google Docs: http://docs.google.com has online word processor and spreadsheet too, but lets you upload any file to your private storage there.
ADrive: http://www.adrive.com is now giving away 50GB as the come-on to its service. Wow. It’s been in the business for a couple of years and has a solid reputation to date.
As always; any questions? Give me a call.
Mike Pepper ~ Computer Guy