Stashing Your Stuff Online?

Category: Cloud

The cloud storage market has come a long way since 1983, when CompuServe offered its members 128 kilobytes of disk space to store any files they wished. Now it's common for cloud providers to offer multiple GIGAbytes for free. Let's take a look at the best places to store your files online...

The Evolution of Cloud Storage

Back in 1983, CompuServe cost up to $22.50 per hour - $53.54 in today’s dollars - and most dial-up modems ran at 300 bps. It would cost $60.35 just to upload 128 KB of data (less than half the capacity of a 5.25-inch floppy) if we still did things that way, and it would take over 73 minutes.

Fortunately, we now have broadband and a host of cloud storage services, most of which offer at least 2 GB of space free of charge. That’s 15,625 times more space than CompuServe offered, and at 25 Mbps (the FCC’s new minimum definition of “broadband”) it would take 80 minutes to fill it up.

AT&T introduced the “cloud” metaphor to consumers in 1994, when it launched the PersonaLink wireless data service for PDAs and portable computers, employing the term “cloud” in its TV commercials. But PersonaLink was based on a proprietary communications network, and never acquired more than 10,000 subscriber. In 1996, AT&T killed PersonaLink in favor of open Internet architecture.

Cloud storage options

Amazon Web Services (AWS) was launched in 2006, enabling on-demand rental of computing power and storage space. In 2007, Dropbox chose AWS as the backend for its consumer-friendly cloud storage service. Others have done likewise, including image-hosting service Smugmug, Pinterest, and the online operating system Synaptop. Other cloud storage services own their infrastructure.

Some cloud services, like Dropbox, Box and Copy, focus solely on file storage and syncing files between devices. Services like Microsoft’s OneDrive, Google Drive, and Apple’s iCloud are just one of many products their parent companies offer. Generally, the former are platform-agnostic while the latter work best with their sibling products.

Free storage space is a popular feature. Dropbox offers 2 GB; OneDrive, 5 GB; Box, 10 GB; Google Drive and Copy, 15 GB. If you're a photo buff, you can get a whopping 1 TB (1000 GB) of free space to store your pics. Beyond the basic free plans, it gets complicated.

Need More Cloud Storage

Most people don't know much about the safety and security of cloud computing. Are your files safe and secure in the cloud, or are they vulnerable to hackers and other threats? Get the scoop on cloud storage security in my article Cloud Storage: Is It Secure?

Amazon Prime subscribers and owners of Amazon Fire devices get unlimited free storage space for photos only; otherwise, unlimited photo storage costs $12 per year. An Unlimited Everything account on Amazon Cloud Drive costs $60 per year.

Dropbox offers additional free storage in exchange for desired user behaviors. Just sitting through the “getting started” tutorial gains a new user 250 MB, and probably saves a lot of customer support time. Each person you refer who opens a Dropbox account is good for another 500 MB, up to a maximum of 16 GB. Activating the automatic photo-uploading feature of the Dropbox app adds another 3 GB to your free allowance. (total, not 3 GB per device).

Google Drive users can earn up to 1 TB of free storage space by contributing to Google Maps Local Guides. Essentially, one earns points for adding a place to Google maps, uploading a photo, reviewing the place, fixing outdated info, and answering a few questions about the place (e. g., business hours, price range). When you accumulate at least 200 points, you get 1 TB of free storage space for two years. You need an Android or iOS device to participate in this program.

Microsoft OneDrive comes with Office 365 subscriptions, including 1 TB of “free” storage ($10/month sold separately).

Need more? The cost of just buying storage space ranges all over the map but levels out at $10 per month for one Terabyte. A 50 GB OneDrive plan costs $2/month. Google Drive sells 100 GB for $2 per month and 1 TB for $10/month. Copy provides 250 GB for $5 per month or 1 TB for $10. Box charges $10 per month for 100 GB, apparently its maximum allowance per account. Dropbox has only one paid plan: $10 per month for 1 TB.

Cloud storage is great for keeping files secure and available no matter where you are or what device you’re using. But if your file collection outgrows the free storage space, cloud storage can become a significant annual expense.

Are you stashing your photos or documents in the cloud for backup, easy access, or to free up space on your hard drive? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Stashing Your Stuff Online?"

(See all 28 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

M Pountney
21 Jan 2016

Having worked under security requirements all my life I cannot understand anyone wanting to hand over data, most of it probably personal, to anyone else. A large capacity hard drive is going to be a lot cheaper also.
I will never use any form of 'cloud' storage / facilities.

Posted by:

21 Jan 2016

Did I miss Carbonite?? I've used them for years at about $60 US a year and their service is great. I've done two new computer restores and they were there every step of the way to help even when I went from Windows to Mac. I will agree however that the right person can get into that "cloud" and wipe you out. I am considering just getting and external hard drive and store everything on it backing up the computer once or twice a week. Any thoughts keeping in mind that you do have the responsibility to make sure the hard drive is protected. You don't want to leave it next to the computer. It needs to follow you around or locked up in a fire proof safe.

Posted by:

David Guillaume
21 Jan 2016

Very interesting Bob. But I must admit that I have given some thought to storing some of my info in one of these cloud based facilities. But at the end of the day I prefer to keep my data and photographs on remote hard drives that only get plugged into my computer when I want to backup or save information that I know cannot be hacked because I always turn of/disconnect my internet connection before turning on a remote hard drive. Question do you get a free pair of wings if you sign up for a cloud facility? I agree with what Mike Brose has to say about hackers.
David Guillaume

Posted by:

21 Jan 2016

I lean to agree with the no trust crowd and stick with local backups. What hasn't been hacked lately?

Posted by:

21 Jan 2016

I use Dropbox because I don't like Google Drive. Google Drive works best with Google Docs and Slides; but when I use "save as" to translate my Microsoft files into that format, layout details get messed up. And Google office software just isn't as versatile as Microsoft for creating files, so I don't want to use Google Docs all the time.

Dropbox, on the other hand, just stores whatever files I give it without changing anything. I store my classroom teaching files, and it's easy to share folders with colleagues-- even those who don't have Dropbox themselves. Dropbox automatically updates any changes to my files on each computer I have connected to it, and then I can use those files locally without online access if I want.

One caveat: Change your Dropbox settings so the program does NOT start automatically when you turn on your computer. One time I had a virus on one computer, and before I recognized the problem it had infected the Dropbox folders on my other connected computers. Dropbox does let you revert to a previous file version, but that's tedious for many files. Now I just start Dropbox manually, and I know all is well.

Posted by:

21 Jan 2016

Just the thought of storing personal info with someone else makes me cringe. Bob, I realize you are only trying to help us, but, in this case I have to disagree with you. Our government doesn't have to spy on us if we voluntarily give them the information. I want to make it as hard as possible for the NSA, etc. to find out about my comings and goings.

Posted by:

Bill Boogaart
22 Jan 2016

I store all my personal files and data on a RAID 1 enabled NAS drive at home. I don't need others to look after or look at my data. And I don't need access to it that desperately when I'm at the local coffee shop. It can wait until I'm home to work with it.

Posted by:

22 Jan 2016

Just to let you know I enjoy your articles, but I tend to agree with lower case ed and Rich F.

Posted by:

22 Jan 2016

Bob, you mentioned 3 extra GB from Dropbox for photo storage. I've never seen or heard any mention of that before. Can you explain how you get/activate that?
I use Dropbox mainly for one specific purpose and that is to share photos and occasionally other files with other people/groups. Unless you have a website, there is really no other way I know if to share more than very limited amounts of data, IE: email attachments or embedded files. And If you want to want to share with a group you almost always have to provide an address to an online file. With Dropbox, it's easy.

Posted by:

22 Jan 2016

Bob, what is the best way to backup my phone contacts, WeChat, and WhatsApp data files to the cloud? I am talking about a real time or regular backup (say once daily) with wifi, and then once set, I can forget about it.

I know there are solutions for photos and videos with, say Dropbox. For music, since I do not add to my collection all the time, I am happy using a program like Wondershare to backup to my PC.

I had a few incidences where either the SD card in my phone went kaput or only the mother board of the phone went kaput alone, or in the case when the whole phone may be lost. When the mishap happened, I still managed to get back my contacts, WeChat and WhatsApp data files, but not without some hassles and lost of some most recent data.

I know WhatsApp had a daily update through wifi to Google and a daily fixed time backup from phone storage to SD card and vice versa. That seems to solve the WhatsApp issue, but what about contacts and WeChat?

Posted by:

22 Jan 2016

Like many who've responded, I'm concerned about the security of cloud services. But I have two other concerns that haven't been mentioned - 1: On a metered connection, the use of cloud files can quickly use up my data allowance. 2: Cloud provider management may decide (in some instances, have decided) to discontinue the service or change the terms, resulting in loss of data. Local storage media is relatively inexpensive, and completely under *my* control (provided I protect it properly).

Posted by:

22 Jan 2016

I purchased the iCloud device and it was so easy to setup and backup. I also, used one or two of the suggested backup programs, you detailed in this article and past articles. I said, I would look through your Archives. :)

I have 2 free programs - Macrium Reflect - Free Edition and Virtual Clone Drive - Free - I am very satisfied. I thought that both of these programs would go to a Cloud, but, they used my External Drive. This pleased me. :)

Now, iCloud does put your BackUp on their Cloud. When I purchased the iCloud device, I was given 1TB of cloud space to use, for 1 year. After that, I will have to pay, at this point, I don't know what they charge, okay?

So, I have one BackUp on a cloud, one BackUp on a DVD Disc and one BackUp on my External Drive. I'm a happy camper. :)

Posted by:

22 Jan 2016 offers 50GB for free. and free folder sync. I found them after stopped offering free online space.

Posted by:

Dan V.
25 Jan 2016

Would it be safe to use cloud storage for files (MP3) that may have been illegally grabbed? Not that I would, you understand, but what if-?

Posted by:

25 Jan 2016

Unless I can encrypt the data before it's uploaded I would never consider doing this with private files. Amazon sells 1TB Touro drives for under $50. and that's much safer than giving your files out to who knows who.

I suddenly find myself wondering how some Hollywood actresses would feel about storing their pictures online... :-D

Posted by:

Stan Koper
26 Jan 2016

I have an account with SpiderOak--you encrypt your data *before* you upload it, so only you have the keys. They offer 1 TB for $12 a month, but I only have their free 2G storage.
My networking friends suggest that if you want to store things like disk images, or your email files in the cloud, that you can expect lengthy wait times to download your files.
And then there is the issue of what happens if the file service you've stored all your photos on goes belly-up. Will they give you time to download your pics, or will they be gone with the service?

Posted by:

Glenda Oakley
26 Jan 2016

Hi, I am happy to use cloud storage, I have nothing that anyone else would find interesting,if I had something really that personal, it would go on my external drive. So, I pay about $11 per year for 20GB from Amazon Cloud. If it fits, I can put whatever I want there, no file size restrictions. They have a free one, but can't remember how much, obviously was not enough for me so I upgraded.

Posted by:

26 Jan 2016

Correction --- I have an iDrive device and the device will store things on their cloud. It's so easy to work.

Posted by:

Phil Sevetson
26 Jan 2016

Possible Erratum: I'm getting 5GB from Dropbox at the moment. As far as I know, no one has listed me as a reference at signup time.

Also, Verizon Wireless subscribers can upgrade (for free) to 25GB/line "cloud" storage. I haven't looked hard into the management thereof.

Posted by:

29 Jul 2016

Degoo is a free, automatic, online backup solution where you get up to 100 GB of free backup space. All files are encrypted using military grade encryption (128-bit AES) and stored at multiple locations, to ensure maximum reliability. The one thing you have to do after installing their application is select the folders you want to backup. Degoo will detect any changes and backup your files automatically. You can turn off your computer in the middle of a backup as Degoo will resume your backup when your computer is switched on again.

Use this link to signup with just an email address and both you and I will get an extra 3GB free.

Once you create an account, you'll get your own link and can earn up to an additional 500GB of space.

You can also purchase additional space.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Stashing Your Stuff Online? (Posted: 21 Jan 2016)
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