Online Free Storage

Category: Backup

Online free storage is one of the greatest innovations to arise from the Internet. There's no need to buy a bigger hard drive or burn stacks of CDs; just upload your photos, videos, documents, and other files to someone else's storage space for free! Here's the scoop on free online storage...

What is Online Storage?

It sounds like a big hard drive in the sky, with gigabytes of free storage for all. Does that sound too good to be true? Well, it's for real. Several companies offer free online file storage space. Microsoft's Windows Live SkyDrive and Google Docs are two popular online file storage services aimed at end users. For webmasters and software developers, Microsoft Azure Blob Storage and the new Google Storage are just a few sources of online storage space from well-known and trusted companies. How do they work?

It's done with "cloud computing," a vague term for using other people's resources via the Internet to get your work done. Proponents of cloud computing say, "Don't sweat the details, just think of the Internet as a nebulous 'cloud' of instantly-available resources that you can tap into at will."
Free Online Storage

In the case of online storage, cloud computing means taking advantage of gigantic amounts of unused storage space that companies such as Microsoft and Google always have available. They connect their vast arrays of disk drive in a network, connect the networked drives to the Internet, and let random people store their stuff on the companies' drives.

Some of these services even allow you to assign a drive letter to the online storage, so it behaves exactly like a local hard drive. That's an important point, because it eliminates the hassle of uploading and downloading your files. Anything filed online in this manner can be accessed directly by the software or utilities installed on your computer. The only difference you may notice is that "disk" access is slower than reading or writing with a local drive. But if you have a fast internet connection, it could be hardly noticeable.

How Much Free Online Storage Can I Get?

Why do they give away free online storage space? To get you hooked on it, of course. Drug dealers give away free samples too, and start charging when a user's habit is big enough and strong enough. Microsoft Azure offers a measly 500 MB of free online storage as an introductory offer, while their SkyDrive gives you 25GB of space. Google Storage is offering "up to 100 GB per object (file stored) and up to 1000 buckets (places to store objects) per account" during its beta/preview period.

Amazon S3, one of the first cloud storage services, offered a few gigabytes of storage free of charge when Microsoft launched Azure Blob, but that offer expired. Now Amazon charges from the first stored byte on. But it's cheap! The first 50 terabytes of storage on Amazon S3 cost only $0.15 per GB. Beyond 50 TB the price per GB falls to as nearly half a cent.

Lesser-known services offering free online storage space include (20 GB); SugarSync (up to 10 GB for 45 days); BoxNet (1 GB); and ADrive (50 GB). All of them have subscription plans with larger storage space, starting in the range of $5 to $10 per month.

The security of online file storage, free or paid, is probably better than that of your local hard drive. Your files are stored in large data centers run by professionals 24/7. The data centers are, typically, well fortified against natural disasters and burglars. Anti-malware software is updated regularly. The climate-controlled rooms that house all those disk drives are equipped with the latest fire suppression systems that are designed to extinguish blazes without damaging disk drives. See my related article Are Online Backup Services Safe? for details on how your data is protected in the cloud.

The biggest vulnerability is that delicate Internet connection between you and your data. If you lose your Internet access, you lose access to your data. But that's a risk many users of free online storage space services are willing to take. Do you have something to say about free online storage? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Online Free Storage"

Posted by:

23 Aug 2010

Hello! you said "Some of these services even allow you to assign a drive letter to the online storage" I have been trying to find one without success, could you precise which one?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Check out Gladinet -- -- it works with Google Docs, SkyDrive and many others.

Posted by:

23 Aug 2010

Nice idea in theory but if your connection isn't the speediest under the sun (bearing in mind that upload speed is invariably slower), and you have a large number of files, it could take forever to upload and will certainly contribute to any cap your ISP may have imposed. I have around 90 gigs-worth of irreplaceable music backed-up locally to no less than four external hard drives (OTT? - I don't think so!) and my own internet connection is a lousy half a meg. with a following wind and a few incantations. Need I say more?

Posted by:

Linda Herrin
23 Aug 2010

Aren't there services that just provide backup, leaving the original documents on your computer so that if you lose your connection to the net you still have your data in front of you? I am wondering if Mozy works this way.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, any online backup service will leave the original files on your local drive.

Posted by:

Jack Mccurdy
24 Aug 2010

"Microsoft offers a measly 500 MB of free online storage as an introductory offer"

@Bob, That's no longer the case. Sky Drive now gives 25 Gigs for free.

Posted by:

Daniel Burns
24 Aug 2010

Good article once again Bob. Just thought I would espouse the virtues of Drobox as another solution here.

Posted by:

24 Aug 2010

Drop box gives 2gb free and 250mb per referell up to 8gb. There is no plan to switch this on you later. The UI is easy. Does anyone know ALL the particulars of some of these other services mentioned? Ie. does Amazon S3 have a minimum? What will google do after it's preview period? Also Microsoft Sky what are they going to charge after the beta run?

Posted by:

Jack Epstein
24 Aug 2010

"The first 50 terabytes of storage on Amazon S3 cost only $0.15 per GB"

Bob, wouldn't this make a terabyte cost $150.? That's not exactly cheap.


Posted by:

24 Aug 2010

You wrote: "Microsoft offers a measly 500 MB of free online storage as an introductory offer." Actually, Microsoft Skydrive offers 25 gigabytes of storage.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sorry for not being clear. The 500MB is for Azure. I've updated the article.

Posted by:

08 Sep 2010

Store my sensitive docs in someone else's space? That's like storing my ring on someone else's finger or parking my car in someone else's garage. I think I'll pass on this great innovation.

Posted by:

Jimmy G
08 Sep 2010

Be careful using these facilities if you want to access them from China - the Great Firewall of China often changes what sites it blocks I have have been caught being unable to retrieve data when traveling there.

Posted by:

Karl W
08 Sep 2010

Will any of these let you upload folders (with subfolders) without manually creating the folder structure on the remote server? Any with FTP access?

Posted by:

08 Sep 2010

Fernando, another option you might want to check out (services allow you to assign a drive letter to the online storage) is Zumodrive:

Posted by:

Paul S
08 Sep 2010

Wikipedia has a comparison chart that was last updated 09/01/10: Like so many computer services, the devil is in the details.

Posted by:

08 Sep 2010

Thanks for the article ,Bob, but I'm afraid I'll have to agree with Dave (23 Aug 2010).
I have tried several online storage solutions,but the uploading is just not fast enough for practical purposes unless you're on a fast (& expensive) plan.
Don't forget that many ISPs are curbing uploads because of perceived illegal file sharing.
So you may have a reasonable fast plan, like 12Mb down,but only 500 kb UP - in reality only 250 at best.Any upload approaching several GB will take forever.

Posted by:

08 Sep 2010

Let's see...
Upload time for all those gigabytes of data, not to mention downlaod time when needed.
Security (privacy) for file content.
Security (loss) of files or content.
Files held hostage over changes/disputes in agreement.
Misguided copyright claims by storage company that subscriber has willingly transferred ownership to company.

No, thanks, at $75/Tb and dropping, I'll just buy more hard drives.

Posted by:

Glenn P.
11 Sep 2010

This is for Ray, who wrote:

"Store my sensitive docs in someone else's space? That's like storing my ring on someone else's finger or parking my car in someone else's garage. I think I'll pass on this great innovation."

Heheheh! Good point! But then, that's what the Good Lord made encryption for. :)

Posted by:

11 Nov 2010

I have read many comments about this topic but there is something more important than the cost per gigabyte or the amount of storage or the speed of the read/write, etc and it is that who guarantee that whatever important documents (including bank accounts, credit card info and accounts,passwords,etc) are secure and nobody can see what you atore there?
I have never used online storage but I suppose (althout it has not been said) that when you are assigned a space or storage lot for your consumption they will also give some ID or username and password of your choice with it and I would like to verify this.

Posted by:

20 Aug 2011

Hey Bob, what about Digital Lifeboat? It's in beta and says if you backup now (unlimited) it will be free forever!

Posted by:

12 Mar 2012 offers 50GB for free. If you want file encryption and/or more storage space, you can get a paid account starting at $6.95 per month.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Online Free Storage (Posted: 23 Aug 2010)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved