Cloud Storage: A Consumer Guide


What is Cloud Storage?
Put simply cloud storage services are online services that save information online. By storing your information to a cloud you can access your files and programs from any computer, laptop or tablet anywhere in the world provided you are connected to the internet.

Is it safe?
Like most things related to the use of the internet security is the major factor to consider when using cloud storage, as you are relying on the service to keep your files safe. If your account is hacked your files are immediately available for whoever got in to change, delete or simply steal. To combat this cloud storage companies typically use encryption to keep your data safe as well as verification to make sure the right person has access to the account.

Advantages
Cost: Cloud storage reduces many of the associated costs with regards to traditional back up methods, you don’t need to buy any extra equipment and most of the major providers offer you at least 2GB of storage space free of charge.
Easy Access: As we’re using more and more devices, tablets, smart phones, notebooks etc. switching between any files you have stored on these devices can be time consuming and complicated. However, cloud storage services allow you direct access to all your files stored on your account from any device with an internet connection.
File Synchronisation: This means that if you save any changes you make to one of your files it is automatically updated across all of your devices. So a document you’ve worked on and saved on your computers desktop will be available on your tablet, smart phone or any other devices you may have.

Free or paid for storage
Free: Most cloud storage providers offer free samples of their services and allow you to store at least 2GB of data free, some providers even offer 15GB of storage for free. To quantify this storing 500 digital photos should only take up around 1GB of storage space. The amounts of free storage will vary so you should compare providers to see their maximum limit and assess just how much data you’ll be able to store for free on each.
Paid: Naturally the more you want to store on a cloud storage service the more you have to pay, you can either pay a monthly or annual fee to receive more space. Like with the amount of free space offered, providers vary in terms of how much space they offer and how much they charge you to use it. Most offer up to at least 1TB of data storage. Again comparing providers to see how much they offer and at what price is the best way to decide which one offers the best deal for you.

Providers
The major providers of cloud storage include Google (Google Drive), Microsoft (One Drive), Amazon (Cloud Drive), Apple (iCloud) and Dropbox. Unfortunately they all vary in terms of the range of storage space available and charge different amounts for offering the same amount of space. For example, Google Drive offers you 100GB of storage space for around £15 a year where as Microsoft’s One drive will cost you around £24 a year for the same amount, Amazon’s Cloud Drive will cost you around £32 a year for 100GB of space, while Apple’s iCloud doesn’t offer that particular amount of space. This can make it hard to choose between providers so it’s important to research them all to see which one offers the right balance of storage space and price for you.

It may also be worth checking to see if you can get any free storage from your broadband provider. BT and Virgin offer a decent amount free storage to their customers. Anyone with the BT unlimited broadband extra package gets 50GB free, while Virgin customers have access to the Virgin Media cloud which also offers up to 50GB of free storage.