If you hadn’t heard lately, Google recently announced that they were going to allow users to upload any kind of file to Google Docs service. While this made the news in a variety of places and seems like a great addition to the google apps service for those of us who already use google docs, if you read into the details they are only allowing files up to 250mb and 1gb of storage space. That is not a lot of space these days. Of course, you could always pay Google for more space ($0.25 per GB per year) and it would be nice to have all your files in one spot and searchable, there are many other options out there for storage that may be better for your needs. Let’s take a look at some of them:
1Gb and less
Evernote is a very popular service that is a file storage, productivity manager and organizer all in one. It allows you to upload a variety of different files to your online space including photos, documents, text notes, clippings of pieces from web pages, snapshots of business cards, whiteboard notes, handwritten notes, voice memos and more. Evernote stores, organizes and makes all of those items searchable. You can also add tags and organize the files yourself. I honestly find this site a little confusing though I haven’t really sat down to look and use it closely. The nice thing about it is that it is well integrated into almost anything you could think of mobile or otherwise. The iphone app is very nice. However, I think the one way this site would really be useful is for those people who have camera phones. The downside is that the free version only allows you to upload 40mb per month which gets used up very quickly.
2 Gb and less
So far, the options have been fairly low for online drive space. The first service that breaks from that mold is Mozy. Mozy offers 2Gb of online space with the option to pay a monthly fee for unlimited space. You can also get more free space if you get your friends to sign up. There doesn’t seem to be any limit on the size of the file that I can see. Once you have signed up, you will need to download and install a program on your computer.
Dropbox offers a similar service to Mozy with 2Gb of online space available and more space if you get friends signed up to the service. The benefit with Dropbox though is a very simple and easy to use user interface. It works on windows and mac platforms and they also have a version for the iphone/ipod touch. I find Dropbox very easy to use and I use it quite a bit to transfer important school files. You can also set up shared photos that others can access through an invite system. One thing that I tend to forget is that when you take files out, the file is not simply copied to your desktop. I have done this once or twice, gone to another computer and discovered that the file was not there in my dropbox anymore. But that’s simply something to remember, not a problem with the service. I use this web app to move my files that I use all the time around with my i.e. project files, things I want to use later, etc. One fun thing about Dropbox is that if you go through a list of Dropbox tasks you can get another 250mb of storage free! And if you invite friends and they sign up you can get more space up to 3 Gb.
More Than 2 Gb
ADrive.com is anther fairly unknown service to me. With these types of services, you have to be careful that they will actually be around in the future, though this is always the case with online web apps. The market is such that they can be here one day and gone the next. Always have your content backup-ed in a variety of places! Anyway, ADrive.com stands out from the rest in that they offer 50GB(!) of online space free. They allow remote file transfer and downloading, file sharing and folder/directory upload. File uploads are restricted to 2 Gb per file but there are not many files that the average person would be uploading that would be that large! To get files into the system you can simply drag and drop files from your desktop onto the interface and it will add them to your upload list or you can also click “Add” and browse. However, the web interface is the only way to get files online and if you create a new version of a file you have to upload it again in order to get the most recent version on the cloud unlike a service like Dropbox.com. You also have the option of editing your files using the Zoho online document editor which is a nice feature.
Even though Microsoft is well disliked by many, they are a company we all know will be around for a very long time. Love them or hate them, they have created tools and applications that are used by huge numbers of users. That is why I have them at the end of the list. While Google is only offering 1Gb of space on their servers, Windows Live offers 25 GB of online space. It’s strange that you do not hear as much about this. This is a considerable amount of space from a reputable company you know is going to be around for the long hall. Integrated into their “Live” set of web apps, this is a fairly easy to use set of tools, though not as simplistic in style or use as services like Dropbox. However, being integrated with Messenger and Photo and others, this can be a nice all in one solution for people who don’t want to be signed up for a lot of different services.
One annoying thing with some of these services, Windows Live included is that you can only upload one file at a time. However, there is one added service that works with Windows Live that gives you the ability to drag and drop multiple files. Skydrive Explorer is a great free service that installs on your computer and acts as another hard drive. To add files, create new folders, etc., just set up the drive as if it was any other hard drive space on your computer. As you add files and folders, they are updated in the Windows Live space. I find this to be another great reason to use the Windows Live space if I need to add my other content in conjunction with Dropbox.
All in all, none of these services are going to move you completely to the cloud. These are storage solutions for those files that you want to access from anywhere or as a way to move the contents of a small hard drive from one computer to another. I could see myself using something like ADrive after I have cleaned out my files on my school hard drive to make available for when I am at school or if I leaving one school and need to transfer files.
What do you use for online storage? Let us know in the comments!
06/06/13 Update: Many of these services have been updated or changed since this post was published. In the meantime, Google Drive has come onto the scene with the consolidation of quite of few of their services and their push to business and education as their office solution. You get 5GB of space for your files which you can share and collaborate on. Box.com also has a nice system you can integrate easily into a blog through their widget, though it was a little tricky to find.
Here is a useful diagram comparing some of the more popular cloud storage companies and what you get: