I’ve answered questions about working in the cloud in several previous columns, but this week’s question is specifically about storing files and sharing them in the cloud. One of the best free services for online file sharing and syncing for years has been Dropbox. It’s amazing how many technological inventions start out with an individual entrepreneur whose innovations drive the market to match or exceed the original ideas.
From the Dropbox website: “Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily. Dropbox was founded in 2007 by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, two MIT students tired of emailing files to themselves to work from more than one computer. Today, more than 50 million people across every continent use Dropbox to always have their stuff at hand, share with family and friends, and work on team projects.”
There are other free file sharing services available, but my personal favorite has been Dropbox. They had developed such a niche that the big guys had to take notice and as we’ve seen this year, come out with their own versions; matching Dropbox in some features and exceeding in others. Google Drive is now well established and Microsoft’s SkyDrive is another alternative. Again there are other competitors in the file sharing market but these are currently the big three.
Which should you choose? Given all three offer some storage space for free; Dropbox 2 GB, Google drive 5 GB and SkyDrive 7 GB. All three offer additional fee based storage when your needs exceed the minimums. SkyDrive seems to have the edge on pricing at $10 per year for 20 GB.
As most of you know, 2 or 3 GB is a lot of storage unless you are storing a lot of high resolution pictures or videos. Word documents and spreadsheets don’t take up much room; so if you are using cloud storage for routine office productivity work, you can probably operate with just the free services.
Another consideration is how the services work with Windows and Macs and with Mobile devices. As you may imagine SkyDrive operates more seamlessly with Windows and Google drive integrates better with all things Google, but for the most part all three work with Mac and Windows devices. All three make it easy for you to access your files from whichever computer you are working on. Once you install one of the services on all your devices, it’s easy to access your cloud files and you have a virtual folder set up on each computer.
So which to use? I use all three! Once they are set up on all your devices, it’s just like opening another storage folder on your computer: it may be virtual, but it looks and operates just like a regular, local folder. So try out one or more of these services and don’t forget the guys who opened up this market which we find so convenient.
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