Find out what to look for when choosing an online cloud storage provider for work, personal, or backup purposes.
Cloud storage has evolved rapidly in the last few years. Today, cloud storage is the best way to keep your material safe with a number of providers competing for your business. If you're questioning what to look for when choosing online cloud storage, we're here to help. We've reviewed the most important features to look for whether you want to save your family photos, collaborate on work documents, backup your computer, or keep your information secure online – or all of the above.
If you’re investing in cloud storage, you want to be sure that you have enough space for everything that needs saving. Photographers, graphic or web designers, and interior designers need to pay particular attention to this issue, as high-definition photos and large size images take up a relatively large amount of storage space. You’ll want a storage app that offers a huge amount of space, like the two terabytes of data you can store using iDrive or Google Drive’s 1TB.
Maximum file sizes come into play here, too. Personal cloud storage users who want to be able to watch movies across devices can be shackled by a cloud storage provider that limits them to 3GB per file when uploading through an app. If you want to store movies in the cloud, check out options like SpiderOak or BackBlaze that permit unlimited file sizes. That said, even some cloud storage providers like Dropbox and Box, which do limit file sizes, only limit them on their apps. Desktop uploads can be as large as you’d like so you might find that their file size limits don’t slow you down after all.
Although you want enough storage space, you also don’t want to overdo it. Unless your storage needs are very modest, you’ll probably have to pay for the cloud space you use. Before you try out a cloud storage option, think about how much space you really need and how much you’ll have to pay to get it. Prices can vary greatly, from $12 a month for 1TB with SpiderOak to $52 a year for double the amount of space with iDrive.
Of course, the price is not driven only by the amount of space available. You’ll also be paying for other features such as ease of use, security, and integration with other tools. By understanding what features you need, you’ll be able to decide what is worth paying for and what you can skip to save a little on the cost.
Integration and Collaboration
One of the huge benefits of cloud storage is that you can access files and work remotely no matter where you are. With cloud storage, you can go over a proposal on your tablet with a client in a cafe or put the finishing touches on a presentation on your smartphone on the train. To make this possible, you need not just storage but also easy accessibility to your work and integrated editing tools.
Certain cloud storage providers like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Box shine in this regard, with desktop apps enabling drag-and-drop syncing for all four providers. Google Drive is pre-integrated into Android devices, making it highly practical for non-iOS users. Its comments and editing options make it easy for colleagues to work together on the same document, even if they are physically distant. One more plus to working with it is that it saves previous versions of your files, so if a co-worker makes a mess of your presentation or a client changes his mind on recent edits, you can revert to an older saved version without stress. OneDrive is integrated into Microsoft Office tools and apps similarly, making for easy collaboration.
Link sharing is another easy way to share material with colleagues and clients. Dropbox has focused on easy shareability so that you can share through social media and email as well as user-to-user. OneDrive enables users to share documents with non-registered users via link sharing, which is an important plus for work environments. Although it is targeted to iOS users, Apple iCloud can be used to share documents with non-Mac workers through their desktop app. Finally, if you’re working with a large team or have to collaborate with people who have many different operating systems, you might want to consider Box, which has apps for Blackberry, Linux, and Windows along with Android and iOS and is supported by Google docs and Microsoft Office 365.
The power to keep everything private is just as important as the ability to share. If you’re working in the financial sector or other fields that require you to handle sensitive information, securing your work-related cloud storage is vital. Equally, anyone who wants to store passwords and sensitive data on the cloud, or is simply concerned about the privacy of their photos, should check the security of the various cloud storage options.
Your data should at least be encrypted before it’s sent to the cloud and ideally remain encrypted while in storage, so it’s a good idea to notice the level of encryption. Apple iCloud, for example, uses higher level 256-bit AES encryption. Many cloud storage providers such as Backblaze invite users to increase the protection by adding their own password or upping it further with two-factor authentication. SpiderOak is one of the most secure cloud storage providers, promising ‘zero knowledge’ storage whereby only you know the password and encryption key. Mega has a similar approach. In this way, they won’t be able to hand your data over to the authorities should they be ordered to do so. Only you can access your information. However, it also means that there is no way to recover access if you lose or forget the password, so it might not be the best option for the absent-minded.
Another element to secure cloud storage is how easily you can secure documents that you want to share. Google Drive, OneDrive, and Mega are among the providers which permit you to set different permission levels for shared items so that you can send a client a document without giving them permission to edit. If you frequently share material from cloud storage but still need to keep your work secure, you'll want the ability to set user permissions.
Accidents happen, from a hard drive frying to a website crashing, so it's not only boy scouts who need to be prepared. A significant selling point of cloud storage is that it keeps your information safe, giving you peace of mind whether you’re saving irreplaceable family memories or vital work documents. Cloud storage isn’t infallible, of course, but the number of servers and high level of security involved makes it more reliable than any other backup method.
Although technically you could use any cloud storage to backup your files, some are designed with the task specifically in mind. Backblaze, Carbonite, and iDrive are among the best backup providers, with unlimited file transfers, full disk backups, and enough storage space to hold your entire hard drive for a reasonable price. Some things to look for in cloud storage options for backups include automatic backups that you can ‘set and forget’ to save your entire hard drive at regular intervals.
It’s also important to be able to easily restore