Cloud storage is a relatively new technology where instead of saving files directly to one computer, you can save them to the “cloud” so that they are then available on any computer that you wish to use. To keep things simple, let’s say that you sign up for a cloud storage service and that you have two computers in your house. By using this cloud service, both of those computers will then have identical copies of every file that you upload.
The advantages to this are huge. First, how many times have you been traveling for work or leisure and then realize that an important file or picture that you wanted to pull up was on your main computer at home. If you had synced both your main computer and the notebook computer you use for traveling with some type of cloud service, they’d both have the files right there!
Not only that, but most of these services allow you to log in through a website using a browser and retrieve any file that you once uploaded. Let’s take a look at the example above again. Even if your two computers weren’t synced together, you could simply log into your cloud service from your laptop and grab that picture or file that you wanted. It’s really that easy.
You don’t have to have any technical knowledge or anything like that to get started with this, either. Just like most of you, I’m usually too busy to learn too much about a lot of technology.
Now let’s take a look at some of the free cloud storage options that are out there and available for you to use. Feel free to use as many of these as you wish — they’re all free!
Free Cloud Storage Services
Dropbox is the first cloud storage service that I started using, and is probably still my favorite. First of all, you get 2 GB of storage for free. While this may not be the most free storage that’s available out there, you can actually increase this amount by referring friends and family to join as well. Most of the time all it takes is a few posts on Facebook about how you just signed up for Dropbox, and your Facebook friends will follow suit. There are lots of other options to add free space as well, and when you sign up it will take you through a tour teaching you about all of the ways to get more storage for free. Of course, you can always buy more storage but we want to try to avoid that if possible.
What I probably like best about Dropbox is the seamless ability to sync files. Once you sign up for Dropbox and install the app on your computer, it will create a folder called “My Dropbox.” Anything and everything that you place within the “My Dropbox” folder will automatically be synced. Simply install the app on a 2nd computer and enter your account details and you get a copy of all of those files automatically downloaded and ready to be used.
There’s also a really good mobile Dropbox app for smartphones. It will automatically keep all of your pictures backed up and synced to all of your computers. No more having to transfer photos from your phone to your computer, because Dropbox will do it for you.
Amazon Cloud Drive
Number two on the list is the Amazon Cloud Drive. It’s very similar to Dropbox in that you install a desktop app and then it syncs everything within that folder to your Cloud Drive. However, syncing two desktop or laptop computers automatically isn’t possible.
You’ll get more than double the storage over Dropbox, and Amazon will give you 5GB of storage for free.
Part of the Amazon Cloud drive is actually the Amazon Cloud Player – kind of a cloud drive, but just for music. Here you can play all of your music files without ever having to download them and take up space on your hard drive. The best part about the cloud player is that any digital music that you buy from Amazon.com does not count towards your 5GB storage limit. As long as you buy your music from Amazon, you can have a free place to store them for life. You can also play all of your songs stored in your Amazon Cloud Player right on your smartphone without downloading a single song.
Box Cloud Drive
I’ve never personally used Box Cloud Drive before, but
right now they are giving away a whopping 50GB in free storage! That’s 25 times more than Dropbox and 10 times more than Amazon. Keep in mind that the usual amount of free storage that you’ll get is 5GB, so this promotion could go away at any time. Even if it does, you’ll still get that 5GB free for life, so it’s still not a bad deal.
You can invite others to view your files, to edit them, and to post comment and discussions. Just like all of the other cloud services out there, Box will sync files to your desktop, and you can download them to other computers through your Box account.
They also have some handy smartphone apps for iPhone and Android phones. These apps appear to function almost just like the Dropbox app does.
With the free 50GB of storage, Box seems to be a reasonable service for you to consider if you need the additional storage space.
Note: Box.com is no longer offering the free 50GB of space, but you can still get the standard 5GB for free!
Just recently this new cloud service called JustCloud has popped up. I have not personally used this service, but they do offer unlimited storage for free. How do they do that? I really don’t know, but just be aware that if you use the service, you may get advertisements through the app or while logged into your account.
With that being said, it looks like JustCloud does offer a pretty decent service. It’s almost surely ad-supported, but if you can put up with the ads you’ll get unlimited storage with computer to computer syncing, iPhone and Android apps, an online control panel and customer support for your files.
I would go with this option if you have an absolute ton of files to store.
The last service I want to talk about is Microsoft SkyDrive. First off, it’s a Microsoft product so you can feel pretty secure whenever you use it. Second, you get 7GB of storage space for free. While I still prefer Dropbox, SkyDrive is a really cool service as well.
For example, even if you don’t own Microsoft Word or Excel, you can still edit and work on these documents for free using a Word or Excel web apps.
You’ll get the standard smartphone apps as well — available on iPhone, Android and Windows Smartphone devices.
Even More Services
Although there are dozens more free cloud storage services out there, these five should give you a great place to start if you’re just getting curious about what all of this “cloud stuff” is about. Feel free to sign up for all of them if you wish, the base storage amounts are always free and you’ll never receive any hidden charges.
Let us know in the comments which one or ones that you signed up for and how you like them!
**As always, if you’re not interested in free cloud storage be sure to check out all of the other free stuff that we have posted this month. I’ll bet you’ll find something that you’re interested in there, and many are still available for the taking!**