Anytime, anywhere access to your files is an important feature of computing today. The days of carrying a USB stick from home to school with Lesson Plans, Notes and Schemes should be a thing of the past! Files accessed and modified on a computer or tablet in school can be accessed from home if the files are stored using one of the many cloud storage services that are available for free. Additional features of cloud storage mean that files can be easily shared and if stored across several providers then multiple copies can be securely kept in different places.
Several cloud storage providers come readily to mind: One Drive, Google Drive and Dropbox while others such as Box, IDrive Sync and iCloud Drive might not be as well known! Combined together these free service offer huge amounts of storage space!
At the most basic level there are two general types of services available, Cloud Storage and Online Backup and both do exactly what their name implies! Basic Cloud Storage providers offer online “disk space” where users can store their files. Installation of a service creates a folder on a PC / laptop and files saved into this folder are also uploaded to the Cloud service; the speed of this upload depends on broadband connectivity and if a user is regularly saving lots of files such as photographs, music or video then broadband traffic allowances might be exceeded in some cases!
Online Backup services include automated backup of files from a PC / laptop to the service provider at regular intervals as well as a process called “versioning” which keeps multiple copies of the same file over time.
The graphic shows the cloud file services on my desktop; the same setup is mirrored on my laptop which means that all my files are kept in sync across the two devices. In total I have 85GB of free cloud storage which was accumulated with very little effort. If needed, files can be accessed via a web browser from any Internet Café whenever I’m away from home without my laptop. I can also use dedicated apps for iPhone or iPad to access the files as well on One Drive, Google Drive iCloud Drive and Dropbox!
Signing up for free for these services is very simple and there are lots and lots of providers out there. I make use of the more popular providers but no matter which ones are used there are a number of concerns and best practices to keep in mind when using Cloud Storage:
1: Always spread copies of important files across several providers in case one should go out of business or suffer a catastrophic data loss!
2: Be prepared to act quickly should a provider decide to charge a fee for storage. Amazon recently ended its 5Gb free storage so I had to delete my files there as I have no intention of paying an annual charge while others still provide a free service.
I haven’t had a problem with any of the providers I use and they offer excellent peace of mind.
One last thing to consider! One Drive from Microsoft and Google Drive from Google offer a wide range of additional services such as email, document editing, creation, sharing and collaboration features. Anyone starting out with Cloud storage for the first time should definitely consider either or both providers.