A Guide to Online Storage Solutions
Any and every computer user knows that backing up data is absolutely vital to maintaining the integrity of their files and folders. Users who do not back up data appropriately are highly susceptible to losing access to important information due to hardware failures, file corruption, viruses, disasters, accidental deletions, and even theft. When this happens, many people are often devastated by the loss of important and unrecoverable data. Despite having this knowledge, many computer users still fail to backup their data regularly, or they simply rely on intermittent backups to USB and thumb drives. Today, there are more backup solutions than ever before, including online backup services that allow you to store your data in the increasingly popular cloud, so there is little reason to forego routinely backing up important data.
For individuals and businesses alike, choosing an appropriate backup solution can be a long and confusing process. Different types of data storage devices and services offer different features and many people never truly understand the differences between such solutions. Further, many people have no idea how to accurately assess their needs and choose a storage solution that fully satisfies their requirements. To make the decision process easier, it is necessary to understand what the different solutions are, how they compare to one another, and how to decide whether they can fulfill your requirements.
Types of storage solutions
There are two types of storage solutions available today: onsite and online, a.k.a. offsite. Onsite data storage usually refers to the storage of your information on local servers, hard drives, external hard drives, including thumb drives, USB/FireWire drives, CDs, and DVDs. In contrast, online data storage is a term that is used to refer to any and all file hosting services on the Internet. These services typically store massive amounts of data on huge servers that are housed in one or more data centers.
Both onsite and online storage solutions have their advantages and disadvantages. For many people, speed is a major concern, since they need to be able to back up their data efficiently and without interruption. A great advantage of onsite storage solutions, provided a local server or hard drive is being used, is the speed. Any time data is transferred over a local network or through a USB or FireWire connection, data transfer rates are typically very high, and there is very little reason for the connection to be interrupted or slowed. This is not always the case with online storage services. The speed of a data transfer, whether it is an upload or a download, will always depend upon the Internet connection at your location as well as the amount of traffic the file hosting service is currently experiencing. A connectivity problem on the user’s side or on the host’s side will prevent data transfers and will even interrupt downloads and uploads while they are in progress. However, many online services do have excellent records of 99.9% uptime.
When it comes to security, online storage solutions tend to be more favorable than onsite solutions. Many people worry that their data may be intercepted during a file upload or download. Fortunately, data is encrypted for security purposes during both downloads and uploads, which makes it very difficult for outsiders to steal any information. Other great security advantages of storing data online is that it is not susceptible to being lost due to any disasters that occur in your home or place of work, and your data cannot easily be stolen. Unfortunately, storing data onsite on CDs, DVDs, or external hard drives makes it very easy for anyone to simply walk off with all of your important data.
One of the leading causes of data corruption and loss is experiencing a hardware failure or malfunction. Unfortunately, a computer or an external hard drive can malfunction at any time, but this risk greatly declines when professionals are continuously monitoring such hardware and the data is backed up on multiple servers. For most companies and individuals, constantly monitoring hardware is impossible due to the man hours and knowledge required to carry out the necessary checks. When data is stored at a well maintained data center, there is a much lower risk of losing files and folders due to a malfunction, since a team of professionals will be maintaining all of the data servers at all times. Additionally, onsite data storage devices are susceptible to being attacked by viruses that are on your computer or your local network, while online storage services are not.
The manner in which data is accessed via onsite and online storage solutions differs greatly, and in many regards, online storage solutions have the upper hand. When using an external hard drive, CD, or a local server for data storage, data cannot easily be accessed anywhere and everywhere, nor can it easily be shared with others. In order to upload or download data to a hard drive or a disk, the device must be connected to the computer and it typically can only be used by one computer at a time. Online storage services make it possible for users to upload and download information anywhere there is an Internet connection. Data can easily be shared via shared user logins or by providing others with links to the files. The downside, however, is that your access is not always guaranteed, since an Internet outage can occur, and you may experience slow uploads and downloads, depending on site traffic and your connection speeds.
As the amount of stored data grows, it is necessary to utilize a flexible storage service that can continuously meet a user’s needs. When using storage devices, once the data has exceeded the device’s storage capabilities, a new device must be purchased. This can lead to gaps in backed up data, since a user may not have another storage device on hand immediately. Additionally, it can be quite inconvenient to search through multiple storage devices when trying to locate a file. Online storage services, on the other hand, typically allow subscribers to purchase and access extra storage space within a number of minutes. Since the data is stored in the same virtual location as other files, searching for files is much easier than searching for files that are spread out amongst multiple storage devices.
For most individuals and some businesses, cost will be a major factor in deciding whether to utilize an onsite or online storage solution. A great advantage of onsite storage is that the user only incurs a one time cost that is associated with purchasing the necessary hard drives and other storage media. Nowadays, the cost of such media is incredibly low - an external hard drive that can hold a terabyte of data can be purchased for well under $100, for example - and there is a good chance that the prices of devices with extremely large storage capabilities will continue to decrease. Online storage services, on the other hand, typically charge users monthly fees based upon the amount of storage space that is required. However, there are some services that allow users to upload small amounts of data for free.
How to Choose Between Onsite and Online Storage
Many people think that onsite storage devices are adequate for meeting their needs. However, it is important for both individuals and businesses to fully consider using both onsite and online storage devices, since there are very few people who can safely say that an onsite storage device alone is able to meet their needs. If a person can confidently say that they would not be impacted in any way by the loss of their data, they will be served well by only onsite storage devices. Similarly, if a person can confidently say that having an interrupted connection to their stored data will not impact them negatively, then it is possible to only consider an online storage service.
For both individuals and businesses, using online services in conjunction with onsite devices is the best way to ensure that all of the data is secure and accessible. Online storage provides users with the peace of mind that the data will remain intact in any event, including local hardware malfunctions, accidental deletions, thefts, and disasters, while onsite storage provides a quick and easy method for storing and accessing data at any time, regardless of any Internet connection issues. Additionally, online storage is the perfect solution for anyone who needs to access their data from multiple locations or share it with others within an instant.
Popular online storage service features
- Automatic desktop synchronization - Set a specific data and time at which the service will automatically back up all of the data on your computer, or data that is located within specific folders. Syncs can be performed daily, weekly, or on any other desired interval, though daily syncs are recommended.
- 256-bit SSL encryption - Keeps passwords, login names, file uploads, and downloads secure via enhanced encryption. This can also lead to faster upload and download times, since ISPs typically do not bottleneck or throttle 256-bit SSL encrypted data because it is normally used to transfer highly sensitive information, including financial information, passwords, and credit card details.
- Password protection - Data can only be accessed when the correct password is entered into the website. Passwords can be reset at any time, and some services will also allow you to regularly reset the password according to a specified interval of time.
- Self-defined navigational trees - Create menus and organize every file into user-defined menus and submenus. There is usually no limit on the number of folders that can be created or the number of files that can be placed within each folder. However, there may be limits on the size of the data that can be stored in a single folder or a maximum file size may be given.
- Text-based search engine - Search for any file, regardless of the filetype, and folder by typing in necessary keywords or the title. Some online storage services limit access to this feature to only their higher paying or business subscribers.
- Personal website - Store every file in a personal website that can be set to private access only or shared with certain people. All data is accessed through the personalized website, making it easier to organize and share data.
- Branding - Add a company logo and color scheme to your storage site. It may also be possible to add custom links to outside pages, including your company’s website.
- Shared links - Create a link with a single click to any file or folder that is stored online. Links can be emailed, posted to other websites, or sent to others via communication methods provided by the online storage service provider.
- Permissions - Set sharing permissions for all stored data. All files and folders can be specified as being editable or view only for specified users. Some services also make it possible to specify exactly what data is shared with each of the site’s users.
- File previews - Preview a file before downloading it to your desktop. A variety of filetypes, including DOC, JPEG, GIF, PDF, PPT, and XLS are typically supported. Certain filetypes, such as Mac OS X specific filetypes, including PAGES, may not be available for auto previews.
- Online file editing - View and edit files without having to leave your browser or download a thing. Several document and spreadsheet filetypes are typically supported.
- Publish data to the Web - Turn stored folders into public Web pages that can be accessed by anyone without the need for a password or any special permissions.
- Multiple user uploads - Allow other people to submit files to your account for storage.
- File version history - Store a version of every single file as it changes over time, making it possible to access and revert to older versions of any and every stored file.
- Permanent storage - Never delete another file again, so you can easily recover data that was accidentally deleted from your local storage devices.
- Public discussions - Create and manage discussion threads pertaining to shared files. This feature is useful for subscribers who share data and require project management tools.
- Instant alerts - Receive an email alert any time a file is uploaded, downloaded, or modified by another member.
- Mobile access - Access all of your stored files and folders via a mobile device, such as a smartphone, via a tailored app.
- Third-party software integration - Use your files with other types of software and services, including Gmail, FedEx, Twitter, and Zoho. It may also be possible to access data through third-party websites, like Google Apps, Salesforce.com, and Intuit QuickBase.
Cost of online storage solutions
The cost of online storage services is typically quite similar amongst competitors and in most cases, it is highly affordable. The costs are usually charged at monthly or annual rates, and some companies offer price breaks to subscribers who pay for each year upfront. There are also a number of services that allow subscribers to store and access their data for free. However, such services typically limit data storage to 5 GB or less and do not provide users with access to the full suite of features, which may be quite inconvenient for business customers and people who wish to manage projects through file sharing.
Many online services charge around $40 to $55 per year in order to store up to 150 GB of data and between $135 and $190 per year to store up to 500 GB of data. Some services also place additional limitations on file uploads by specifying a maximum file size of 2 GB, which makes it incredibly difficult to back up large movie files. However, there are some online backup services that allow users to store an unlimited amount of data for as little as $55 per year with no additional or hidden fees for services. These unlimited services are generally stripped down in terms of features, but are very useful for anyone who needs to store massive amounts of data on a tight budget.
How to choose the right online solution
Choosing the right online solution for your needs can be incredibly daunting, especially since you are storing highly sensitive and important data that cannot be compromised under any circumstances. Fortunately, the decision making process is a lot easier when you know which features to look out for, including:
- Security - Never subscribe to any online storage service unless you know how they protect your data while it is being uploaded, downloaded, and stored. Many companies will utilize 128-bit SSL encryption, which is an industry standard. However, 256-bit SSL encryption is better and 448-bit Blowfish encryption is also suitable. If a storage company does not advertise how they keep your data safe, be sure to contact them and find out before using their services.
- Compatibility - Some services may require you to download additional software to your computer in order to run regular backup routines. This software may not be compatible with all operating systems.
- Automatic daily backups - Backing up your data on a daily basis guarantees that your data will always be safely stored. Additional backup options should include an automated backup being created any time a file is modified and saved locally. Also, data should ideally be backed up several times across multiple servers at the company’s data centers.
- Reliability - There are a number of services that provide a 99.9% service uptime guarantee. This means that you will be able to access your data 99.9% of the time, provided your Internet connection is working. Be sure to select a company that offers such a guarantee as well as a money back guarantee in the event that they do not meet their advertised uptime standards.
- History - Choosing a long-standing company can help safeguard your data from being lost due to a company going out of business. Companies that have proven their worth by sticking around for a number of years are more likely to stay in business and you can rest assured that their experience will provide you with a better level of service and security.
- 24/7 customer service - Having access to a customer service representative around the clock will guarantee that you have access to the technical help you need right when you need it.
- Location - Find out where the company’s data center is located. Typically, it should be located at least 50 to 100 miles from your location. This will prevent your backed up data from being affected by local disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes.
- Storage space - If you have a large amount of data to store and expect it to grow rapidly, an unlimited service will be ideal. Choosing an unlimited service may also provide great cost savings. A general rule of thumb for all online service subscribers is to choose a plan that offers more space than is currently needed. This will help ensure that the amount of allotted storage space is not quickly outgrown. It is always important to also pay attention to maximum allowed file sizes.
- File versioning - To safeguard against accidental file deletions and file overwrites, a service that provides access to previous versions of files should be chosen. Be sure to check how many versions are made available by each service or if a time limit is placed upon each file.
- Cost - Always evaluate your finances prior to choosing a storage service. Selecting a service that you are not able to afford in the long run may lead to having to transfer all of your backed up data to another provider on short notice. This process can be very timely and if it is not completed on time, some data may be lost.
- Collaborative tools - Business customers and people who are looking to integrate file sharing tools within their projects may be better served by choosing a service that offers a variety of collaboration tools. Some useful tools include shared Web pages, discussion boards, link sharing, and email notifications.
Popular online storage solutions
ioSafe - ioSafe was founded in 2005 and is a leading data storage company that offers a range of external and internal hard drive solutions for both home and professional use. Today, their products are used by a range of notable companies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and QuickPCSupport.
The external backup solutions offered by ioSafe include the Solo USB 2.0, SoloPRO USB 3.0, SoloPRO eSATA/USB 2.0, and the SoloPRO SSD eSATA/USB 2.0. Each of these external hard drives offers 2 terabytes of storage space, except for the SoloPRO SSD eSATA/USB 2.0, which offers only 256 GB of storage space, making it more suitable for home use, rather than office use. Each drive also provides users with exceptional data transfer rates, ranging from 480 Mbit/s to 5Gbit/s. With an ioSafe external hard drive, users should be able to store all of their files, ranging from documents to movies and music, with ease.
When it comes to protection, the ioSafe drives have got you covered. Each drive is fireproof and waterproof, essentially making them disaster proof. Data stored in one of these external hard drives will remain intact in temperatures reaching up to 1550 degrees Fahrenheit, or 843 degrees Celsius, for up to half an hour, thanks to its DataCast endothermic fire insulation technology which keeps the internal temperature down by releasing cooling water vapor once a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit is reached. Data is also protected from loss when submerged in water that is up to ten feet deep for up to three days due to the HydroSafe water barrier, which keeps water out, while allowing heat to dissipate during normal operation. The SoloPRO SSD eSATA/USB 2.0 goes a step further than the other drives, since it can also withstand up to 1000g of shock and 5000lbs of crushing force.
ioSafe drives are also relatively theftproof due to the built in Kensington security slot and anti-theft tab. This makes it easy to secure the drive to nearly any surface, which makes it difficult for thieves to simply pick up the external drive and leave with it. Securing the drive to a surface also protects it from moving during a major disaster, such as an earthquake or hurricane.
Each ioSafe drive comes with a number of data recovery service options, which start at the low cost of $49. In the event that you cannot retrieve the data yourself, ioSafe will recover the data for you at no cost with no questions asked, provided a recovery plan was purchased. If a recovery plan has been purchased and ioSafe is not able to recover your data, they will provide between $1000 and $5000 for service fees when using an outside company to recover your data.
All ioSafe hard drives are compatible with both the Windows and Mac OS X operating systems. However, there is limited compatibility with Linux-based and Windows Server operating systems. Users of Windows XP, Vista, 7, and all Mac OS X operating systems at or above version 8.6 can benefit from being able to choose any of the hard drives that are on offer. People who need to back up data from computers running Windows Server 2000, 2003, or 2008, and Linux Debian, Fedora Core, or Redhat will need to choose either the SoloPRO eSATA/USB 2.0 or the SoloPRO SSD eSATA/USB 2.0.
In terms of design, the ioSafe hard drives are visually appealing and incredibly rugged. They are also very easy to accommodate, since they do not need to be positioned in a specific manner in order to run. However, the air vents must be kept clear at all times in order to ensure that the heat is able to dissipate normally. Unfortunately, these external hard drives are quite heavy and weigh in at 15 to 20lbs. each. This means that putting one of these drives in a backpack and traveling is simply out of the question. Instead, they have been designed to be installed in one location and to stay there.
ioSafe external hard drives should be within most individual and professional price ranges. The most affordable unit, the Solo USB 2.0, costs only $149.99, while the most expensive unit, the SoloPRO SSC eSATA/USB 2.0, costs $749.99. Both the SoloPRO USB 3.0 and SoloPRO eSATA/USB 2.0 are reasonably priced at $249.99. Each drive also comes with exceptional help and support, since they are backed by a 3 year warranty, which can be upgraded to 5 years at
In order to back up your data with an ioSafe drive, additional software will need to be installed on your computer. This is the only way that you will be able to schedule routine backups without having to perform them manually. Although these hard drives do offer superior performance when compared to other external drives in terms of data protection and data transfer speeds, they do not offer easy access to data, since they are not mobile. Additionally, unlike online services, sharing data will not be quick and painless because the drive will either have to be connected to each individual’s computer or placed on a network. All in all, these hard drives are great for individual use and creating local backups, but they should typically be used in conjunction with online storage services. The latter is especially true for offices, groups of people who need to share data, and people who require access to all of their data wherever they go.
Box - Box is an online storage option that has been available since 2005. Due to its robust set of features, which range from individual storage options to collaborative tools, it has become an industry leader and has even attracted many famous subscribers, including MTV, Dell, ESPN, and DirecTV.
Box offers a number of plans that are suitable for individuals and larger companies. For home use, the Personal plan is available for free for the first 5 GB of stored data. After the first 5 GB have been used, a charge of $9.99 per user per month will be applied to up to 25 GB and a cost of $19.99 per user per month will be applied to up 50 GB of storage space. Additionally, file sizes may not exceed 25 MB on the free plan and 1 GB on paid plans. This plan provides users with access to their files from anywhere and it is also possible to share links to files with others. However, the features that are available to Personal plan users are highly limited.
The Business plan is aimed at small offices and project groups and provides users with 500 GB of storage space. However, the maximum file size is capped at 2 GB, which may make it difficult for filmmakers to store uncompressed movies. The Business plan costs $15 per user per month and a free trial is available. Business plan users will have access to most of the available tools and features, but their advanced administrative and security controls are highly limited, making this plan unsuitable for any organization that requires a high level of security and control over their files.
The most robust plan available from Box is the Enterprise plan, which is priced at $35 per user per month. This plan provides subscribers with access to every available feature as well as an unlimited amount of data storage. However, the cap on file sizes still remains at 2 GB, which makes this plan unsuitable for any organization that needs to store large files without compressing them. A free trial is available by contacting the company via phone.
Unfortunately, security controls and options are very limited for Personal users. Business and Enterprise subscribers, however, are offered 256-bit SSL encryption during file transfers, the ability to select which users are able to access files through the main software interface, and the option to password protect specific files and folders. Account administrators also have access to a wide range of reporting features, which allows them to see who has been logging into the system and what has been happening to all of the stored files. Sadly, only Enterprise users are offered 256-bit SSL encryption while files are at rest on servers in the Box data centers.
Another limitation for Personal account subscribers is that they will not have access to version histories for their files. This means that these subscribers can only access the most recent versions of their files. However, Business and Enterprise users do have full access to all versions of their files, even after changes have been made and saved.
For groups of people who are looking to collaborate online and quickly share files, Box offers a wealth of features that are quite similar to project management software tools. Some of these features include the ability to create a personalized Web page that allows you to organize all of your files and folders into user-defined tree structures, the ability to publicly share an entire folder, and the option to create a shared workspace where files can be viewed, edited, and added to by other group members. When sharing content, members are also able to comment upon different files, create open discussions, and create and assign tasks as well as their due dates. Folder permissions can also be set to control which users are able to access the various folders.
A great benefit of using Box is that it allows users to integrate with third-party services, which can make file sharing and transferring much easier. Some of the third-party software Box can currently integrate with include eFax, Twitter, Gmail, Google Analytics, and Salesforce.com. Additionally, there is a Box app available for the iPhone, iPad, and the Android operating system, allowing subscribers to access their data with ease when they are on the go using a smartphone.
No matter which plan you have subscribed to, you can rest assured that your data has been backed up multiple times. Box backs up every single bit of data on backup servers in other facilities that are not located in the same geographical location as the original servers. This means that your data has enhanced protection from being damaged due to disasters. Additionally, the provide a 99.9% uptime guarantee, meaning that you should almost always have reliable access to your files and folders.
Ultimately, Box will be most suitable for users who are looking for collaborative features and are willing to fork out the cash per user for the monthly Business or Enterprise fees. However, this service will not be suitable for users who are looking for a service which allows them to schedule automatic system backups, and any home users who are looking for the best security for their files will not be satisfied with Personal plans. This service, however, does have a very user-friendly interface that is stripped down to the essential features, making it easy for all kinds of users to get along with.
Carbonite - Founded in 2006, Carbonite offers solutions for both home users and professionals who are looking to keep all of their files backed up. Carbonite is free to try, and the company claims that almost 70% of their trial members go onto subscribing for their services, which is an astonishing success rate.
Carbonite offers a single plan, which is unlimited storage at a flat price. However, it is possible to save a small amount of money by signing up for multi-year plans. For example, a one year plan costs $54.95 per computer, while a two year plan costs $99.95 per computer, and a three year plan costs only $129.95 per computer. Depending upon which plan you choose, you can save anywhere from roughly $9 to $35.
In order to use Carbonite, the Carbonite application must be installed on your computer. Currently, this software is compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. It is also compatible with Intel-based Macs running OS X 10.4 and above. The only other requirement for being able to use Carbonite is to have high speed Internet access, such as Broadband speed Internet.
Once Carbonite is installed, it can be used to automatically back up many different filetypes on a computer and backups can be scheduled to occur daily, on a certain day, or every hour. Currently, the software supports all kinds of photo, document, email, and music files. It will not create automatic backups of temporary files, system files, or software applications, but video files, executable files, and files larger than 4 GB can be backed up manually.
A great advantage of installing Carbonite is that it creates automatic backups of most filetypes that are stored on your machine. It will also create backups of files that have been modified. This makes this service a great choice for anyone who does not have the time to back up their data manually. However, this process can only be carried out while the computer is connected to the Internet.
The user interface for Carbonite is extremely easy to use, which is partly due to the fact that this software has been designed to do only one thing, which is to back up your data. The main interface makes it easy to find out when your files were backed up, how many files were stored, and how many files have yet to be backed up via the startup screen. Choosing your backup interval is also extremely simple and all of the options are clearly laid out and simply titled. If you ever need to restore a file, the Backup Drive makes it easy to search for the file and restore it to your computer via a right-click.
Accessing your files is incredibly easy and can be done from anywhere there is Internet access as long as you have your login details on hand. Additionally, users who own an iPhone, Android-based phone, or Blackberry smartphone can download the Carbonite app and access their data from anywhere without the need for a computer.
Security for Carbonite users is extremely high. Files are encrypted with 128-bit Blowfish encryption before they even leave a computer, which is an industry standard. They are then uploaded to the company’s servers via SSL technology and a professional security firm guards the data centers around the clock each and every day. Additionally, data is backed up on multiple servers that are located in geographically separated data centers, which safeguards your data from being lost due to a major disaster at the main data center.
In the event that you experience a technical difficulty while using Carbonite, you will be given access to their support team via phone, email and live chat at no extra cost. Although the phone lines are only open during regular business hours, the live chat is available 24 hours a day.
Carbonite will be a great service for any individual or business who is looking to do only one thing: backup their files automatically. Fortunately, it does achieve this goal and its plan is very reasonably priced. Although this service does not provide advanced file sharing features, like group access to a shared website or the ability to create and share links to files, it does make backing up data simple and fast at a very low cost, while providing your files with a great level of security.
Sugarsync - SugarSync was founded in 2004 and is a highly popular online storage service that is used by a wide variety of people and organizations, ranging from home users to small businesses and professionals. Its most notable user is Bloomberg, and this service offers far more than the average number of features that are provided by many of the other online storage services.
SugarSync offers plans that are suitable for both individuals and businesses that require multiple users to share a single account. It also offers free trials for all of its accounts as well as a free plan for individuals. The free plan can be used forever and provides users with 5 GB of storage space. For home users and professionals who require a personal account but only have small amounts of data that need to be backed up, the 30 GB and 60 GB plans offer ample storage at an affordable cost. The 30 GB plan costs only $4.99 per month, or $49.99 per year, while the 60 GB plan costs $9.99 per month, or $99.99 per year. People who require more storage space can opt for the 100 GB or 250 GB plans. The 100 GB plan is priced at $14.99 per month, or $149.99 per year, while the 250 GB plan is offered at $24.99 per month, or $249.99 per year. There is also a 500 GB plan for individuals that is available for an introductory price of $39.99 per month, or $399.99 per year. For business users who require accounts with multiple users, a plan business plan is available with 100 GB of storage space and access for up to three users. This plan costs $29.99 per month, or $299.99 per year, for new customers. Once the introductory period ends, the costs will go up to $49.99 per month, or $449.99 per year. Additional users can be added to an account at a cost of $9.99 per user per month, or $99.99 per user per year, and additional storage can be added at a rate of $29.99 per month for each 100 GB of required space, or $299.99 per year.
SugarSync is currently compatible with two of the most popular operating systems around: Windows and Mac OS X. Currently, it can be installed on machines running Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Max OS X 10.5 or greater. Unfortunately, this list excludes the great number of Mac OS X Tiger users and Linux users.
Some of the best benefits of using SugarSync are that it allows its users to automatically backup their files, access files from anywhere, and sync files across multiple computers. Once the initial backup is created, there is no need to perform any more maintenance within the application. SugarSync will automatically save the changes you make to your files and store any new files that you add to your computer. As it does this, it works in the background while taking up very few of your computer’s resources, so it should not interfere with the functionality and speed of your other applications, including the most demanding applications on your computer. You can also drag and drop files to a Web Archive folder to save each version of each file as you work on them. When it comes to access, SugarSync goes above and beyond. All of your data can easily be accessed via the online interface and from multiple computers. If you want to sync multiple computers, simply install SugarSync on each computer. Computers can also be synced to other devices while they are off, since SugarSync is capable of updating them once they have been turned on. This means that you can easily start editing a file on one computer and then finish working on it via another computer without having to place the file on an external drive or email it to yourself.
People who frequently edit their files on computers that do not belong to them, such as school computers or machines at work, will benefit from the ability to edit files on those machines and automatically save any changes to the online storage space. These machines don’t even need to have the SugarSync client installed. All that is required is Web access, so you can log into your personalized storage website.
Additional file access is available through mobile devices, such as smartphones. The iPhone and Windows Mobile phones are currently supported and data is accessed by navigating to your personalized mobile site. The mobile site allows users to access all of the features of SugarSync without the need for a computer.
If you have ever lost a file due to an accidental overwrite or deletion, SugarSync can help you recover those files. With file versioning, the previous five versions of all of your stored files are automatically saved, so you can retrieve and restore them to your computer whenever you need to. Additionally, a wide variety of files have file versioning built into them, including document, spreadsheet, music, photo, and video files as well as PDFs.
People who store tons of photos can greatly benefit from the photo storage and sharing capabilities of this application. In addition to storing all of your photos in a gallery view that has the option for adding comments, it is also possible to install SugarSync Mobile on a camera phone and automatically have all of your camera phone pictures backed up. You can even share your photo galleries with other people and give them the option to comment on the photos they view.
Sharing files through SugarSync is an easy and convenient option for people who are tired of emailing attachments or uploading files to FTP servers. A public link can be generated for each and every file, and these links can be shared through Twitter, Facebook, or via email. They can also be shared through blogs and instant messaging applications, meaning you can now share files of any size with other people, which is usually not the case when you try to email an attachment or attach a file to an instant message. When a user clicks on a shared public link, they will be given direct access to the file without having to provide a password or register for anything, and public links can be disabled at any time.
If you need to collaborate on a project with other people, you can share any of the folders that are on your computer. By sharing a folder, folder members are able to view, edit, and save new files to the folder, and the version of each file will continue to be tracked, which means you can audit every change. The owner of the account or folder can also specify which folder members are able to view the folder and which members are able to edit the contents of the folder. It is also possible to add password protection to folders and set up email notifications to alert you any time a folder has been accessed or updated by another member.
When you store your files with SugarSync, you can rest assured that they are safe. Both uploads and downloads are protected by SSL encryption technology, which is the industry standard for secure Web-based communications. While the files are in storage, they are encrypted with 128-bit AES technology, which is commonly used by banks. This makes it difficult for anyone who does not have your login and password information to access your data. In fact, even SugarSync employees are not able to access your precious data. Additional security is provided through redundant servers. Each and every one of your files is stored multiple times on multiple servers across locations that are distant from one another. This means that your data is protected from natural and manmade disasters.
Using SugarSync to backup and access data is extremely easy via its streamlined online interface. Every function is clearly labeled and obvious to recognize, and the gallery viewing options make it very easy to locate specific files. Also, users who have trouble using SugarSync can access help straight from the interface and by using the live chat support system. For telephone support, there is a monthly charge. However, this service is available for free to business users.
SugarSync is a great online storage solution for anyone who needs access to flexible plans and the ability easily sync devices and share files with others. It also offers great data security and options for business accounts that require multiple user access points. However, due to the costs of plans that provide more storage space and the limitations upon storage space, it is probably not suitable for any users who are looking for a massive amount of data storage - one terrabyte, for example - at an affordable monthly price.
Mozy - Mozy was founded in 2005 and is a very popular online backup service amongst both consumers and businesses. They currently offer two backup products: MozyHome and MozyPro, which is intended for office use. Notable Mozy users include the American Red Cross in Nashville and the University of San Francisco.
MozyHome is currently compatible with Windows 7, 2000, XP, and Vista as well as Mac OS X 10.4 and above. MozyPro goes further by adding compatibility with Windows 2008, 2003, and 2000. MozyHome is priced at $4.95 per month, or $54.45 per year for an unlimited amount of storage space, while MozyPro offers desktop licenses for $3.95 per month and server licenses for $6.95 per month for an unlimited amount of storage space. Unfortunately, a free trial is not offered for MozyPro, but MozyHome can be used for free by any user who wishes to store only 2 GB of data or less.
When it comes to security, Mozy takes no chances with your data. All files are protected via 128-bit SSL encryption during file transfers and 448-bit Blowfish encryption for stored files. Additionally, files cannot be accessed without using an authorized login. Users with advanced capabilities can also add an additional layer of protection by choosing a personal key or managed encryption key.
Any user who is looking to automatically backup their files will be well served by Mozy. In addition to scheduled backups that can be run on daily, weekly, or monthly intervals, files are also saved as they are being modified. For Windows users, Mozy offers an additional application called Mozy 2xProtect, which allows them to easily store their data on an external drive, such as a USB device.
In the event that you accidentally save over a file and need to revert to a previous version, Mozy creates version snapshots that span the previous 30 days. This gives users the ability to restore all file versions from the past 30 days.
MozyPro users can create multiple user accounts, making file sharing easier. However, they do not offer the sharing and discussion features that are available from some other file sharing services. This service also lacks access from mobile devices, such as smartphones.
On the plus side, the Mozy software interface is simple and easy to understand. Via tabbed browsing, any user can easily change the backup settings, restore old files, and navigate all of their stored data. Menus are clearly laid out and there is no confusing or technical jargon present on the user interface.
MozyHome is a great option for home users who are looking to back up their data with ease, but do not need any advanced file sharing capabilities, and MozyPro is definitely a great choice for businesses who are looking for unlimited data storage, but do not require any advanced project management or communication features. Additionally, both plans come with excellent levels of technical support via live chat and access to knowledge base articles. MozyPro subscribers, however, are given the option to contact technical support via phone.
IDrive - IDrive is an online storage solution that is offered by Pro Softnet Corp, which has been in business since 1995. Currently, a number of plans are offered for personal, family, and business use for the Windows and Mac operating systems.
For computer users who only require a small amount of personal storage space, IDrive Basic offers up to 5 GB of storage space for free. Home users who require up to 150 GB of space can purchase a plan for $49.50 per month, while families can purchase 500 GB of space for up to five computers for only $149.50 annually. Business plans range anywhere from 50 GB to 1000 GB of storage with costs ranging from $99.50 to $799.50 per year. All plans are subject to overuse charges, which equal $0.50 per GB per month. However, overuse charges can be avoided by upgrading to a better plan.
Users of IDrive do not need to worry about security when they are transferring files, nor do they have to worry about the security of their files while they are in storage. With IDrive, all file and folders are encrypted with 128-bit SSL technology during uploads and downloads, which is the industry standard. Additionally, stored files are encrypted with 256-bit AES encryption, which is commonly used by financial, government, and healthcare organizations. On the downside, IDrive does not back up data across multiple servers that are geographically separated, which means that your data may be susceptible to being lost during major disasters, like hurricanes, earthquakes, large fires, or tornadoes.
Backing up data is incredibly simple. The first time the backup software is launched, the application immediately scans your hard drive for files and folders that you may want to back up. These files will include document, image, video, and music files. However, files and folders can also be manually added to the list and backups can be scheduled to run at any desired frequency. It is also possible to back up an entire folder or drive immediately with the click of a button and files are continuously backed up as they are modified.
The application’s interface is very easy to use and understand. Every single aspect is clearly defined, easy to find, and streamlined. There is also an easy-to-understand user manual as well as telephone, email, and chat support for subscribers.
If you have ever accidentally overwritten a file with new data, IDrive has you covered. The service automatically saves the last 30 versions of every single file. Accessing older versions is easy to do and users are not charged for storing previous file versions. Instead, storage is based upon the amount of space that is occupied by the most recent version of each stored file.
IDrive is more than adequate for any users who are looking to backup their data with ease, but do not need advanced sharing capabilities or mobile device support. Scheduling data backups is easy to do right off the bat and you can even access your data from anywhere at any time if you have access to the Web.
OpenDrive - OpenDrive is a popular storage service that also has some file sharing capabilities. It is primarily used on the Windows platform and currently offers a range of plans that have been designed for personal and professional use.
Anyone who wishes to try OpenDrive for free can open a Basic account, which will provide them with up to 5 GB of storage space and the ability to store any file that is 100 MB or less in size. Home users who require more space can sign up for the Home plan, which is priced at $5 per month or $50 per year. This plan provides 100 GB of storage space and a maximum file size of 1 GB for up to five users. It also offers unlimited download speeds and computer access, and 25 GB per day of bandwidth. Office users have access to 500 GB of storage space for $15 per month, or $150 per year for up to 50 users. The maximum file size for an Office account is 2 GB and daily bandwidth is capped at 100 GB per day. However, there are unlimited download speeds and an unlimited number of computers may access the service. The most expensive option, the Pro plan, is priced at $25 per month, or $250 per year, for up to 200 user accounts. It offers 1 TB of storage space with a 2 GB maximum file size as well as unlimited download speeds and unlimited computer access.
All OpenDrive subscribers are able to access their data from anywhere at any time via Web access, giving them the ability to upload, manage, and download files. The OpenDrive software is also included, which allows users to add folders and files to the list of data sources that should be routinely backed up. Additionally, OpenDrive Desktop, which allows for user collaboration, and the API are available to download and use for all subscribers.
When using OpenDrive, entire folders and individual files can easily be shared amongst users by setting the appropriate permissions within the system. Users may also modify and discuss the stored files within the application. Additionally, links to files can be created and shared with anyone, including people who are not on your OpenDrive user list.
With the Synchronization Manager, it is possible to schedule automatic backups of your files and folders and to set the types of backup services that are required. The available options currently include Permanent Synchronization, which continuously back ups any files and folders that have been changed, and One Time Synchronization, which only creates a backup of the file or folder at the time it is selected. Office and Pro users also have access to previous file versions, in addition to current file versions.
Industry standard SSL encryption is used to protect file uploads and downloads as well as stored files. It is also possible to protect files and folders with passwords. However, data is not backed up on multiple servers that are stored in different locations, which means that your data can fall victim to major disasters.
Getting started with OpenDrive is a pretty easy process. The user manuals and FAQ provide a wealth of information that can help even the most inexperienced computer users get up and running with ease. There is also a searchable knowledge base and the interface is well laid out and very easy to navigate. Phone and email support is also offered as well as access to a user forum.
Overall, OpenDrive is an easy system to use that provides enough file sharing tools to satisfy many business users and project groups. However, smartphone support is not currently offered and it would be nice for OpenDrive to offer file versioning for Home users, rather than only their Office and Pro users.
ADrive - Founded in 2007, ADrive is an online storage solution that offers free and paid for plans that are suitable for individuals and small businesses. Although this company is a relative newcomer, they do have a lot to offer and their plans can compete with those that are offered by well established companies.
The Basic plan for individual use is a free plan that offers 50 GB of storage space, search tools, and file sharing capabilities. However, it does come with third party advertisements. The Signature plan, which offers 50 GB of storage space for $6.95 per month or $69.50 per year, is packed with the full suite of features and does not include any third party ads. The Premium plan also offers the full suite of features and provides anywhere from 100 GB to 1 TB of storage space, with plans starting at $13.95 per month or $139.50 per year. However, the maximum file size for all accounts is 2 GB.
No matter which plan you sign up for, you can access your FTP via any FTP client. File sharing is also easy to do via file links and the ability to email those links directly from your ADrive account and files can be uploaded via the included Java uploader. Additionally, every subscriber can easily search for files by typing in keywords or file names in the included search bar, and it is also possible to edit word processing documents and spreadsheets online via the Zoho Online Document Editor, making it easy to work with files without having to download them first.
Signature and Premium subscribers are able to retrieve older versions of their files. The file history feature allows users to view a snapshot of an older version and choose to restore it to their local hard drives or another storage device with a single click. Signature and Premium subscribers also have the option to download the ADrive application, which is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux machines, at no additional cost. This application makes it easy to schedule automatic backups and access the ADrive account right from a user’s desktop.
Unfortunately, SSL data encryption is currently only offered to Signature and Premium users, meaning that many individuals on a tight budget may have to forget about using ADrive altogether. No matter what type of user you are, data encryption is important, since it protects your data from being stolen during downloads and uploads. In order to ensure that all of your data is secure, you should opt for one of the paid plans. However, this may make this service more attractive to business users.
Paying subscribers can also create multiple accounts, allowing multiple computers to access the ADrive account simultaneously. For most individuals, this feature will probably be quite unnecessary. However, businesses and project groups can benefit from having easy simultaneous access to stored data.
Fortunately, when you store your data with ADrive, you can benefit from their redundant backups. All of your data will be stored in at least two data centers that are not in the same geographic location. This provides your data with protection from natural disasters.
The ADrive user interface is easy to navigate and highly streamlined for all of your storage and data access needs. If a Signature or Premium user ever experiences a technical difficulty, they have access to 24/7 phone and email support, while Basic users can find answers to their questions by searching and posting onto the user forum.
ADrive is reasonably priced, but it may be geared more towards business users than individual home users, since the Basic account excludes basic security functionality. However, a great high point for this service is the ability to view and edit documents via the Zoho Document Editor. This feature is a must for anyone who does not have constant access to the necessary document editing applications and for impatient users who hate waiting for document downloads to complete.
Dropbox - Dropbox was founded in 2007 and was made available to the public in 2008. Today, it offers a range of plans that are suitable for both individuals and business users. It also boasts a hefty client list of over 4 million subscribers.
For users who do not require much storage space, Dropbox offers a free plan that provides you with 2 GB of storage space. Users who require up to 50 GB of space can opt for the Pro 50 plan, which costs $9.99 per month, and those who require up to 100 GB of space can purchase the Pro 100 plan for $19.99 per month. However, since the plans limit storage to only 100 GB, Dropbox may not be suitable for large businesses or individuals who need to store numerous large media files, like movie clips and uncompressed file formats. On the plus side, all users have access to the full suite of features, making this a great option for anyone who does not have massive storage needs.
With Dropbox, users can easily sync their files, regardless of size or type, with the online storage service. It is also possible to automatically sync new files and files that are changed as well as files that are stored on multiple computers. Dropbox is also compatible with a good range of operating systems, including Windows, Mac, and Linux, which are some of the most popular operating systems around.
If you’ve ever accidentally deleted or overwritten a file, Dropbox can prevent you from losing your important data with ease. This service provides all of its users with access to 30 days of undo history for every single file. This means that it is possible to recover both deleted files and older versions of files. For an extra fee, you can install Pack-rat, which provides you with access to an unlimited undo history.
Accessing and sharing files from any location is a simple process when using Dropbox. All of the features and your stored files can be accessed anywhere there is an Internet connection. Stored files and folders can also be shared with several people and any file changes will be reported to other Dropbox users immediately. It is also possible to create public folders and to set folder and file access permissions, meaning that you have control over who accesses your information.
Additional accessibility options are provided via mobile device access. Dropbox currently provides apps for the iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, and Android-based devices. Through these apps, users can manage all of their files and folders, upload new files, and view existing files.
One of the great benefits of Dropbox is its simple user interface and the fact that it allows users to create photo galleries. For many users, the functionality may seem quite familiar, since it allows them to drag and drop files and folders right into the application and many additional functions can be accessed by right-clicking on the status dots that are on the folders in the application. Users who wish to share photo galleries online can create shareable galleries with ease, and when others are given access to these galleries, they cannot access the other aspects of the account. Unfortunately, for users who struggle with the service or experience technical difficulties, only email support is available.
When it comes to security, Dropbox properly secures all of the data that has been set to private via SSL encryption, and all data is set to private by default. However, any public files and folders can be found by anyone who is provided with a link to them or accidentally stumbles upon them while surfing the Web.
Overall, Dropbox offers the online storage features that most users are looking for. The only real downside to this service is the fact that it does not offer an unlimited subscription plan or any plans that offer more than 100 GB of data storage. Unfortunately, as time passes, the number of people who have well over 100 GB of data to store will rapidly increase. Hopefully, a plan offering 1 TB of data storage will surface in the future.
Trend Micro SafeSync, formerly Humyo - Trend Micro was founded in 1988, and in June, 2010, they acquired Humyo and renamed it Trend Micro Safe Sync. Trend Micro Safe Sync retains much of the functionality of Humyo, including file sharing features, and offers a single subscription plan.
Trend Micro SafeSync is offered on an annual subscription basis, which provides access to every single one of its features and an unlimited amount of storage for all of your folders and files. The current price of the plan is £44.99, which is roughly $70 per year, and a 30 day free trial is available. This plan also offers the option to opt into an automatic subscription renewal plan, which provides you with the security of knowing that your data will never be compromised simply because you forgot to pay the next year’s fees.
With SafeSync, files and folders on your computer are backed up automatically online and previous versions of all of your files are also saved. If a file is ever deleted or modified on your computer accidentally, it is possible to recover an older version from SafeSync. Additionally, files are kept safe during storage and transfers with 256-bit AES encryption technology, which is the same technology that is employed by banks and other financial institutions.
If the main SafeSync data center is ever struck by a disaster, your data should still be safe. All of their data is routinely backed up on redundant servers that are located in a separate location and each file is backed up on multiple storage clusters. The servers are also protected from hackers via up-to-date firewalls.
Accessing your saved files and folders is easy with SafeSync. Your backed up data can be accessed through the online interface as well as through your desktop. Once SafeSync is installed, the online backup space appears as another drive on your computer. This also makes it easy to drag and drop new files into SafeSync. It is also possible to access photos, stream your saved media, and access files from a mobile device, such as a smartphone.
Anyone who stores tons of files will benefit from the search capabilities offered by this service. Instead of having to dig through tons of folders, you can use the included search engine to search for any file that you need. Files can easily be found by typing in the relevant file names or keywords.
When it comes to sharing, SafeSync offers the features that most users are looking for. Photo albums can easily be shared with others via online slideshows and by publishing the photos straight to a blog. Files and media can also be published to Facebook or shared with Yahoo, Hotmail, and Gmail. It is also possible to share your account with others and receive updates on any and all file changes. Users who are worried about permission issues will feel at ease, since it is possible to select which SafeSync users have access to which files, and access can be revoked at any time.
Trend Micro SafeSync is a good online backup choice for anyone who requires unlimited storage at a reasonable annual price. It will also work well for people who wish to share their files with ease through social networking sites or email. For businesses who require the ability to discuss files online, however, an alternative solution should be sought.
ElephantDrive - Founded in 2005, ElephantDrive provides a range of individual, personal, shared, and business accounts. For users who find it difficult to select a plan, they offer side by side comparisons, text summaries, phone support, and the option to try a lighter version of their services for free.
ElephantDrive Lite is available for free and provides users with 2 GB of storage space. However, the account can only be used by a single user on a single computer and the maximum file size is limited to only 100 MB. Users who require a single account and 100 GB of storage space can opt for the Personal plan, which is priced at $9.95 per month, or $99.50 per year. Personal subscriber plans can also back up their data on up to two external drives or computers and have a file size limit of 1 GB. The Family plan is available for $19.95 per month or $199.50 per year. With this plan, a single user account can store up to 500 GB of data and use ElephantDrive on up to five different computers. With an Enterprise plan, which is most suitable for businesses and project groups, an unlimited amount of data an be stored and files that are up to 5 GB are allowed. Enterprise subscribers also have access to the full suite of features and multiple users are supported. With the Enterprise plan, 50 GB of storage space can be purchased for $25 per month or $200 per year, and five users may access the account. For 250 GB of space and support for up to 25 users, the plan is available for $115 per month or $920 per year, and for 500 GB of storage space and up to 50 users, plans cost $215 per month or $1720 per year. Free trials are available for all Enterprise subscribers and it is possible to upgrade to a plan that offers 1 TB of storage space with support for up to 100 users at a cost of $415 per month or $3320 per year.
Any files stored online with ElephantDrive will be kept safe. During data transfers, files are encrypted with 128-bit SSL technology and 256-bit AES encryption is available for highly sensitive data. This level of security is available for every single account. However, only paying subscribers are guaranteed that their data is stored across multiple servers in multiple locations, providing their data with security against disasters. It is important to note, though, that each data center utilizes architectural practices and technologies that have been designed to safeguard against disasters, such as floods and fires.
To use ElephantDrive, you must install the application on your computer. The application is currently compatible with Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7. It is also compatible with Mac OS X Tiger and above. Once the software has been installed, the initial backup must be performed, and all files and folders will automatically be updated going forward, including the addition of new files and changes to existing files. It is also possible to schedule regular backups of your system.
When it comes to sharing, the options are very limited. However, purchasing a higher priced plan, such as the Family plan, may offer some users the multi-device integration that they require. Unfortunately, the sharing capabilities of ElephantDrive simply don’t stack up against its competitors.
For users who are looking for a good set of basic backup features, ElephantDrive offers a good file search tool and file histories. This makes it easier to locate files and also offers the possibility to revert to previous file versions once they have already been deleted or modified on your computer.
Accessing data is easy via the Web-based portal, which is also password protected. With the portal, you can download any of your stored files using a computer that does not have ElephantDrive installed. However, a major drawback is that files cannot be uploaded to ElephantDrive without the application being installed on the computer, which will make it difficult to update and back up any files on a computer that does not belong to you.
The user interface for this service is very easy to navigate and use. It uses file structures which mirror those that are typically found on most computers and selecting a folder or drive to back up can be done within a few clicks. If you experience any issues while using ElephantDrive, you can contact support via phone or email. Alternatively, you can browse the online FAQ, but it only provides the most basic information on the application.
ElephantDrive offers a decent user plan for free that may satisfy users who have low storage needs. However, due to its pricing structures and limited number of features, most individuals will most likely be better served by more affordable solutions that offer increased storage space or services that offer similar prices, but a more robust set of features. Businesses may be able to afford ElephantDrive, but small businesses that require lots of storage space and sub-accounts may be locked out from their services because of their Enterprise plan prices.
Apple MobileMe - MobileMe is an Apple product that provides Mac and PC users, who have installed Outlook, with access to all of their data from anywhere at any time. Apple was originally founded in 1976 and the company is still going strong.
Anyone who wishes to try MobileMe can participate in a 60 day free trial of the service. People who enjoy the service can choose from an Individual plan or a Family Pack. The Individual plan is priced at $99 per year and offers 20 GB of storage space in the cloud. It also limits monthly data transfers to 200 GB, but it does give users access to every single MobileMe feature. The Family Pack provides up to 40 GB of data storage and allows for the creation of four sub-accounts. Each Family Pack account has access to all of MobileMe’s features and the cost of the plan is set to $149 per year.
In order to use MobileMe, you must be running a machine with a compatible operating system. The application currently runs on the iPhone and iPod Touch with iOS 3.1.3 or higher as well as the iPad with iOS 3.2 or higher. For Mac OS X users, version 10.5.8 (Leopard) or higher is recommended, along with Safari 4 or later, or Firefox 3.5. PC users who are running Windows 7, Vista, or XP may also use MobileMe.
With MobileMe, all of your email, contacts, and calendar information can be backed up with ease and synced with other devices, which will be useful for anyone who frequently uses multiple computers or a computer in conjunction with a mobile device. Every MobileMe user is provided with a me.com account, which can be synced up with other email clients. Whenever an email is received via MobileMe, the message is pushed to all of your devices automatically and a notification is generated. When it comes to managing your contacts, MobileMe makes things much easier. If you add a new contact to your iPhone, for example, that data will also be sent to your other synced devices, such as the Address Book on your Mac or Outlook on your PC. Similar syncing is also available for your calendars and any appointment updates will be sent to all of your synced devices. This service, however, is not currently available for Microsoft Outlook, but Apple is working on a solution.
One feature that no other online storage service offers is the ability to easily find your lost iPhone or iPad. With MobileMe, you can enable the Find My iPhone or iPad setting on the device once you install the application. If the mobile device is lost, you can log into your me.com account from any computer and locate the device on a map. You can also locate the missing device by commanding it to play a sound, and you can increase your chances of retrieving it by sending it a display message that allows the person who finds the device to know the item is missing and how to contact you. It is also possible to remotely lock your iPhone or iPad and set a passcode, which will keep your private information safe and sound.
Photo management is a breeze with MobileMe, especially if you own a Mac and use iPhoto ’09 or Aperture 3. Any changes that are made to your photos and any photos that are uploaded will immediately show up online. Additionally, you can backup any photos that are stored in Aperture and iPhoto from within the applications. Users can also upload images and video from their iPhones to their online accounts. You can even create and share photo galleries with friends and family members, and allow them to contribute their own images to your galleries.
At the heart of MobileMe is iDisk. With iDisk, you can drag and drop all of the files and folders you need to back up to the virtual storage drive on your computer. The backed up files will then be available online through me.com and they can be accessed by both Macs and PCs as well as mobile devices, like the iPhone and iPad. Files can also be previewed online, including iWork and Microsoft Office documents. However, they cannot be edited online. Instead, they must be downloaded and modified.
When it comes to sharing, MobileMe has the features that many users are looking for. Any folder can be made public, allowing anyone to access the stored information from their Web browsers, and public information can be modified and added to by invited users. You can also share links to large files with the included email function, meaning that you no longer have to generate a link to a file, log into your email account, and then compose and send a message. Instead, everything can be done from within iDisk.
The MobileMe interface as well as me.com are very easy to use and provide the streamlined look and functionality that is expected from Mac systems. Many Mac users will find that the interface is very familiar and easy to navigate. If help is ever needed, support is provided by Apple, which is a leader in providing customer satisfaction and service.
Overall, MobileMe will most likely appeal to Mac and iPhone users more than anyone else. However, it does offer a great range of storage and sharing features for all users as well as great syncing functionality. The only real downside is the limited amount of storage space.
Google Docs - Google Docs is a free document storage service from Google. It is becoming increasingly popular amongst college students as well as professionals who need to access a wide variety of document formats from any computer at any time.
Google Docs is a free service that can be accessed by opening a free Google Docs account or a Gmail account. All users are provided with 1 GB of storage space for their documents and this is not counted toward, nor is it derived from the space that is already being used in other Google accounts, such as Gmail.
The most impressive feature of Google Docs is that it allows its users to view and edit any of their stored documents online, regardless of which computer they are using. Currently, word processing documents, including those generated by Microsoft Word, spreadsheets, and presentations can be stored and edited in Google Docs. Additionally, all of the data can be stored in user-defined folders, rearranged, and modified at any time.
When editing a document, all of the most necessary editing functions are available. This includes the ability to cut and paste text, name files, change fonts, and add additional formatting. When working on a spreadsheet, it is possible to use formulas, reorganize sheets, and copy data from multiple cells with a single click.
In comparison to many services, Google Docs truly does excel at providing document sharing and collaboration tools. A link to any document can be sent to anyone within an instant and it is also possible to give people the ability to view and edit your stored documents. Also, you no longer need to have the necessary software installed on your computer in order to view a shared DOC or PDF file, for example, since the files can now be displayed online through your Web browser.
The Google Docs interface is extremely easy to navigate and features the stripped down, simplified look that is expected from Google products. The interface is also quite similar to popular word processing applications, like Microsoft Word, which should make it easy for new users to find their way around the application. Additionally, mobile devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices can access and use Google Docs through the mobile app, allowing people to edit files on their phones while they are on the go.
Anyone who is looking for a simple way to work on their documents from anywhere at any time or share them with others should try Google Docs. The service is free, so there really is nothing to lose.
LiveDrive - LiveDrive was founded in 2006 and offers two basic backup plans that will appeal to individuals and home users. There are also versions of the application that are available for businesses, but their features and pricing are tailored to the needs of each individual business.
All personal plans from LiveDrive offer unlimited storage space, bandwidth, transfer speeds, multiple computer support, and 24 hour email support as well as support for mobile devices, including the iPhone and the Blackberry. The most basic plan, which is called Backup, costs $6.95 per month or $66.53 per year and offers users access to some of the application’s features and functions. The more robust plan, called Backup & Briefcase, offers access to all of LiveDrive’s features and is available for $16.95 per month or $170.53 per year. Anyone who is interested in subscribing to their services can try the software for free for up to two weeks.
LiveDrive provides users with automated backups of their files and monitors all files for changes. The application is compatible with both Mac and Windows computers, which are two of the most popular operating systems around. However, data can be downloaded onto any computer through the password protected Web portal, even the computer does not have LiveDrive installed.
Users are also provided with security against accidental file deletions and overwrites. LiveDrive automatically saves up to 30 versions of every single one of your backed up files. This makes it easy to locate and restore your files through the Web portal or the LiveDrive application.
For security, LiveDrive uses industry standard SSL encryption technology. Your files are encrypted during data uploads and downloads. They are also encrypted while they are being stored on the data servers.
By opting for the LiveDrive Briefcase, you can easily sync files between all of your computers. The Briefcase automatically syncs all of your data across all of your computers without the need for you to lift a finger. You can also send photos from the Briefcase to social networking sites, like FaceBook, and email files to the Briefcase from any computer to ensure that they are stored on all of your computers. The Briefcase is also extremely easy to use, since it appears on your computer as an additional hard drive. This means that you can drag and drop files into the Briefcase, just as you would for all of the files that are stored on your local hard drive.
If you need to view and edit your documents on the go, but do not have your word processing applications installed on all of your computers, LiveDrive can help. By logging into the Web portal, you can view and edit your Microsoft Office documents right from your Web browser. Additionally, the Web portal has a built in music player, photo viewer, and video player.
Sharing is easy with LiveDrive. You can generate a link to any of your files with a single click. This link can then be shared with any of your friends and family members via email or through a social networking site. You can even post the link to your website, and there are no file size restrictions placed upon your shared files.
LiveDrive is a great service for anyone who is looking for unlimited storage at an affordable price. The software is easy to use and all plans allow users to view their files on mobile phones and revert to older file versions.
Windows Live SkyDrive
Windows Live SkyDrive - Live SkyDrive is an online storage solution that is provided by Windows, which was founded in 1975, through their Windows Live Web portal. Live SkyDrive is available for free to all users under a single plan structure.
Live SkyDrive provides all of its users with free access to 25 GB of storage space. This space can be used to store nearly any type of file, including documents, photos, videos, and music. In order to access the service, a free Windows Live account is required and all of your information is password protected.
One of the great advantages of using Live SkyDrive is that you can easily access and edit all of your stored Office documents through a Web browser. This means that you can view and edit documents that were created in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote on computers that don’t have any of those applications installed. For busy professionals and students, this feature offers a very valuable service.
With SkyDrive, files can be downloaded to any computer and you can also access files through a mobile device. The iPhone and Windows phones are currently supported. With Office Web Apps installed, you can even view and edit documents on your smartphone.
When it comes to sharing and collaboration, Live SkyDrive offers users a few different options. For example, files can be emailed through Hotmail. However, these files are limited to a file size of only 50 MB each. Alternatively, a folder can be created within Live SkyDrive and shared with individuals and groups. The shared folder can be protected with a password of your choosing, allowing you to share the password with others at will. When a folder is shared, certain members can be given file editing and uploading permissions. To preserve the integrity of your data, file version histories are generated and you can revert to a previous version at any time.
It is also possible to create and share online photo galleries. With the Live Photo Gallery, you can store all of your photos and edit them online. Once your photos look the way you want them to, they can be added to Live SkyDrive and organized within a gallery that can be set to private or shared. You can even view online slideshows of all of your images.
The interface for Live SkyDrive mimics the look and feel of other Windows products. This will make it incredibly easy for current and past Windows users to familiarize themselves with the interface.
Anyone who is looking for free and easy access to their Office documents and photos may want to try Windows Live SkyDrive. With a Windows Live account and SkyDrive, you can easily manage and edit your documents from anywhere at any time. Also, since this is a Windows product, you are guaranteed an excellent amount of service uptime.
Amazon S3 (Amazon Simple Storage Service) - Amazon S3 is a service that is primarily used by businesses, including Web storage providers, that store or distribute large amounts of data. Unlike many other storage services, Amazon prices its plans per GB used and does not place any caps on the amount of storage space that is available to its customers. Notable users of Amazon S3 include SmugMug, OpenSimulator, which is the storage service used for Second Life, and Dropbox.
Amazon offers a tiered pricing structure for its data storage plans. For example, users who use up to 1 TB of storage space will be charged $0.140 per month for every GB that is used. Once the first terabyte has been used, the next 49 TB will be charged at a rate of $0.125 per month per GB. Finally, any user who requires over 5000 TB of storage space will be charged $0.055 per GB per month. People who subscribe to the Reduced Redundancy Storage plan, which provides less security than other plans, can benefit from lower monthly costs. For instance, the first TB of data is priced at $0.093 per GB used per month, while each GB that exceeds 5000 TB is charged at a rate of $0.037 per month.
Amazon also charges subscribers for their data transfers. All subscribers must pay $0.100 for each GB that is transferred to their servers. For outgoing data, the charges are as follows: free for the first GB of each month, $0.150 per GB per month for all transfers below 10 TB, $0.110 per GB per month for the next 40 TB, $.090 per GB per month for the next 100 TB, and $0.080 per GB per month for all outgoing data in excess of 150 TB.
The features of S3 have been intentionally designed with a very stripped down and basic feel to them. This has been done in order to provide developers with a flexible storage platform. Some of the main features of Amazon S3 include unlimited storage, encrypted data, the ability to choose a storage location, and the ability to write, read, and delete objects from within storage.
When it comes to security, very few services can beat Amazon. All of your data is stored and copied across multiple servers in multiple locations. Through the use of redundant data storage, it is also possible for Amazon to automatically repair any corrupt file with the redundant data. However, it is possible to choose a plan with less security in order to save money. This service, which is called the Reduced Redundancy Storage option, should only be used for non-sensitive data.
With S3, you never have to lose another file again. Every single version of every stored file can be saved indefinitely, providing you with access to files which may have been overwritten or deleted from your computer. It is important to note, though, that file versions do contribute to your file storage fees. To keep costs down, you should dump old versions once a certain number of file modifications have been made or after a certain amount of time has passed.
The interface that is used for Amazon S3 is very easy to use and only includes the most basic, but highly necessary, storage options. Because of this, the average computer user can access S3 and learn to use it with ease. An additional advantage of S3 is that it can be used with multiple operating systems, including the Linux, Windows, and Mac platforms.
For personal use, Amazon S3 does provide very low storage charges, especially to those who only require a minimal amount of storage space. For example, 8 GB of space can be purchased for only $2 per month. However, most personal users will benefit from downloading an additional application, which can aid them with automatically backing up all of their data. Many S3 users tend to use Jungle Disk, which is compatible with the Mac, Windows, and Linux platforms.
For large businesses and developers, Amazon S3 is the industry standard when it comes to cloud-based storage. The service is fully scalable, incredibly fast, inexpensive, easy to use, and reliable. In fact, any and all users of S3 will benefit from over 99.99% uptime.
Wuala - Wuala was founded in 2007 and offers a range of plans that are suitable for home users as well as businesses that require affordable storage and basic backup features. Wuala is currently compatible with computers that are running the Mac, Windows, or Linux operating systems.
Users who only require 1 GB of data storage can use Wuala for free. However, they won’t have access to all of the backup features, including file version histories. For $29 per year, all of the features can be accessed and 10 GB of storage space is provided. All other plans also provide access to the full list of features and are priced as follows: $49 per year for 25 GB, $79 per year for 50 GB, $129 per year for 100 GB, and $289 per year for 250 GB. Additional storage can be purchased and users can even trade their local disk space for additional online storage space.
When trading your local disk space for online storage, the additional storage provided is equal to the amount of storage space you make available multiplied by the amount of time that your computer is online. For example, if you have 100 GB of storage space that you wish to trade in and are typically online 60% of the time, you will be provided with 60 GB of online storage space in exchange for your 100 GB of local disk space. Although the final amount of storage space is less than the original amount of local disk space, it does provide you with access to your online data at any time from anywhere as long as you are connected to the Internet. However, you must be online for a minimum of four hours a day in order to trade in your local disk space.
Files can be uploaded and downloaded to Wuala through the installed application or through your Web browser. When using Wuala on your computer, a virtual drive will appear on your Desktop, which will resemble your other hard drives. Through this virtual drive, you can easily drag and drop files into the virtual drive as you normally would when transferring your data between local drives.
With Wuala, you can automatically back up your data and sync your computers. By using the Wuala desktop application, you can set the interval at which your data is automatically backed up. Additionally, if you upload a file to Wuala, it will be made available on all of your other enabled computers. These features are only available for paying subscribers, so free users will have to do all of their backing up and syncing manually.
All Wuala users can use the sharing and collaboration tools within the application. Folders and files can be shared online and links to each file can be shared via email, instant messaging, and even social networks. When someone receives a link from you, they won’t have to register for anything and they will be immediately taken to their file download. For collaboration purposes, you can create a user group that has access to some of your data. Members of the group can modify files, provided they are given permission to do so, and they can also comment publicly on the stored files.
For your security, all data is encrypted before it leaves your computer with 128-bit AES, 2048-bit RSA, and SHA-256 technologies. Data is also backed up and stored on multiple servers that are located in different geographic locations, which protects your data from being damaged or lost due to a disaster at one of the data centers. Additionally, previous versions of all of your files are saved, which means you can recover deleted and overwritten data.
Wuala is a user friendly online backup service that provides exceptional storage capabilities for individuals at very reasonable prices. However, large businesses and people who require huge amounts of data storage may need to use a different service, such as a service that provides unlimited data storage.
NomaDesk - NomaDesk is a European company that was founded in 2004. It provides affordable storage plans that will appeal to individuals who are looking for personal file storage as well as businesses who need team storage.
NomaDesk currently offers two storage plans, which are called Personal Fileserver and Team Fileserver. Both plans can be tried out for free for up to 30 days, and rather than charging for the amount of storage space required, a flat fee is charged for each plan and unlimited storage space is provided. Personal Fileserver is currently priced at $50 per year, while Team Fileserver is priced at $15 per month. However, price breaks are available to individuals who wish to sign up for extended plan periods.
Both of the available plans offer unlimited storage and the ability to restore backup versions of all of your files. However, backups are limited to the past seven days, which may not be adequate for many users, and may be especially inadequate for professional users. It is possible to manually back up an unlimited number of file versions, though this will probably be far too time consuming for most users.
People who subscribe to the Team Fileserver plan can sync an unlimited number of computers, while Personal Fileserver users can sync data on up to three computers. This makes it easy to keep all of your files up to date on all of your computers without having to manually upload files to each and every computer that you use or own.
Collaboration is made easy with NomaDesk. You can invite people to join your Team Fileserver account at no extra cost right from the NomaDesk application. It is also possible to share specific files and folders publicly. With FileLink and FolderLink, you can send links to your data through the Web to anyone of your choosing and there are no file size restrictions placed on shared data.
All NomaDesk users can access their data from anywhere at any time via the online dashboard. It is also possible to upload data to your online space by emailing files to your NomaDesk email address. Whenever a file is received, it will be placed in a special folder for your review before it is added to your backed up files. iPhone and Blackberry users can also access NomaDesk through the MyNomaDesk mobile app. This gives mobile users the ability to access the online dashboard from their mobile devices and makes it possible to share links to files while on the go.
When it comes to security, NomaDesk has got you covered. If your computer is ever compromised in any way due to theft or loss, for example, you can remotely shred the virtual NomaDesk drive by accessing the Web portal on another computer. All of your files are also encrypted while they are stored on your hard drive and during transit via 256-bit SSL technology.
NomaDesk is a highly affordable online storage service that will appeal to many individuals who require personal or shared storage space. With its low costs and unlimited amounts of data storage, every home computer user should consider using NomaDesk for their storage needs.
Up and coming online storage solutions
Backblaze - Backblaze is an online backup tool that is compatible with Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Mac OS X 10.4+. For only $5 a month, users can store an unlimited amount of data online and are given access to every single feature of the service, including automated backups, scheduled backups, file restoration, and the ability to sync multiple computers. To find out more about Backblaze, call 650-352-3738 or email email@example.com.
Barracuda Backup Service - Founded in 2003, Barracuda offers Backup Service as a hybrid approach to backing up your data. Data is first backed up locally on a Barracuda storage device and is then replicated at an offsite location. This service also offers redundant disk space storage, access to data via a Web interface, and the ability to restore older files. For more information on Barracuda Backup Service, call 1-888-ANTI-SPAM or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
BackUP Motion - BackUP Motion is an online storage service based in Germany. They provide a number of storage plans that cost anywhere from roughly $8 for a GB of storage space to up to $900 for a 1000 GB storage space. With this software, you can automatically back up your data according to a scheduled interval and you can even try it for free for up to 30 days. To learn more about BackUP Motion, email email@example.com or call +43-1-338-3380.
Comodo Backup - Comodo Backup offers online storage as well as collaboration tools. With this service, you can store your files online securely, manage everything online, and create public discussion groups. File versioning is also available. For more information on Comodo Backup, call 1-888-266-6361 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CrashPlan - CrashPlan offers both free and paid for online backup services. The free plan is designed for personal use and automatically backs up all of your data on a daily basis. CrashPlanPRO offers continuous backups, speedy access, and the ability to create reports. All plans can be tried out for free for up to 30 days and the software is compatible with the Windows, Mac, Linux, Solaris, and VMware operating systems. To learn more about CrashPlan, email email@example.com.
DataPreserve - DataPreserve was founded in 2005 and offers online backup solutions for Mac, Windows, and Linux users. Its key features include automated backups, scheduled backups, and Web based management and reporting tools. To find out more about DataPreserve, call 800-267-6006.
Dell DataSafe - DataSafe is available from Dell, a company that was founded in 1984. It offers online protection for files, preventing them from being lost or damaged due to natural disasters, fires, and theft. Files are also backed up automatically according to a set schedule and any time they are changed on your computer. Free storage is available for up to 2 GB of data and 100 GB can be purchased for $59 per year. For more information on Dell DataSafe, call 1-866-795-5597.
Hitachi Backup, formerly Fabrik Ultimate Backup - Fabrik Ultimate Backup was acquired by Hitachi and all new users will be subscribing to Hitachi Backup as of 2010. Key features include the ability to automatically back up data online, restore data from within the cloud, and share files and folders with anyone you desire. The first three GB of space are provided for free or 250 GB can be purchased for the low cost of $49 per year. To learn more about Hitachi Backup, call 800-801-4618.
Flickr - Flickr was founded in 2004 and offers free photo sharing for all of its basic users. It also allows users to communicate with one another via comments upon photos and photos can be organized into galleries. With Flickr Pro, users can access unlimited amounts of storage space, access original files, and view the analytical data for their accounts. The Pro account is currently priced at $24.95 per year, which is roughly $2 per month. To learn more about Flickr, visit http://www.flickr.com.
Jungle Disk - Founded in 2007, Jungle Disk is commonly used in conjunction with Amazon S3 by many personal Web storage users. Jungle Disk offers both personal and business storage solutions, with plans starting at $2 and $4 per month, respectively. Key features of this application include mobile device support, automatic backups, and file syncing across multiple computers. For more information on Jungle Disk, call 678-710-7745.
KeepVault - KeepVault was founded in 2005 and offers online backup services starting at $46 per year for 40 GB of space, going up to 5000 GB of space for $4460 per year. Key features include the ability to create local and online backups as well as Windows compatibility. To learn more about KeepVault, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
MediaFire - MediaFire was founded in 2006 and offers unlimited amounts of data uploads for all of its users as well as unlimited downloads. Key features include an unlimited amount of storage space, direct file linking, and the ability to share very large files over the Internet. To find out more about MediaFire, call 1-877-495-4275.
Mega Upload - Mega Upload allows users to store all kinds of files online and access them at very high speeds. With free membership, users are given 200 GB of online storage space, support for resuming broken downloads, and the ability to share links to their files. With Premium membership, users can store an unlimited amount of data, have the highest download speed priority, and can enjoy reduced advertising on the website. For more information on Mega Upload, visit http://www.megaupload.com.
Memopal - Memopal is an Italian-based online storage service that is compatible with both Windows and Mac machines. Key features include automatic backups, scheduled backups, secured data transfers and storage, and the ability protect multiple computers from data loss with a single user license. To find out more about Memopal, email email@example.com or call 1-800-277-4094.
Picasa - Picasa is a free online photo managing tool from Google, which was founded in 1998. With Picasa, users can upload tons of photos and organize them into photo albums and galleries that can be shared with others. Picasa also offers online photo editing tools and the ability to have your photos printed out by a professional service at a cost. To learn more about Picasa, visit http://picasa.google.com/.
SOS Online Backup - SOS Online Backup was founded in 2001 and offers Web access to all of your stored files. It also allows you to sync up to five computers and store up to 50 GB of data for $79.95 per year or 100 GB of data for $99.95 per year. For more information on SOS Online Backup, call 1-877-896-3611.
SpiderOak - Founded in 2007, SpiderOak provides data backup services for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux users. A free storage plan is available for people who only require 2 GB of storage space. Users requiring 100 GB of space or more can purchase space in 100 GB increments at a cost of $10 per increment per month. Key features include automated backups, device synchronization, and file version histories. To learn more about SpiderOak, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
F-Secure - F-Secure offers online backup solutions starting at $49.99 annually for a single computer. Key features include unlimited storage space, automatic backups, and easy access to files through a personalized Web page. It is also possible to share files with friends, family members, and coworkers. For more information on F-Secure, call 1-888-432-8233 or email email@example.com.
Symantec Online Backup - Symantec was founded in 1982 and offers online backup solutions that are suitable for small and large businesses. With this service, you can sync multiple computers and create automatic backups of all of your data. To learn more about Symantec Online Backup, call 650-527-8000.
Syncplicity - Syncplicity offers a range of plans for individuals and small businesses. Their free plan offers a single user access to 2 GB of storage space, while their Personal Edition plan offers a single user access to 50 GB of space for $15 per month. The Business Edition gives three users access to 50 GB of storage space for $45 per month. Key features include automated backups, file sharing, collaboration tools, and enhanced data security. For more information on Sycplicity, visit http://www.syncplicity.com.
Ubuntu One - Ubuntu One offers a free Basic package for online file storage that provides users with access to 2 GB of space and a Web portal. The Mobile package makes it possible to access all of your data from a mobile device and prices start at $3.99 per month. To learn more about Ubuntu One, visit http://www.one.ubuntu.com.
Unitrends Vault2Cloud - Unitrends was founded in 1989 and offers Vault2Cloud as an online storage service that charges users based upon the amount of storage space they use. Prices start at $0.49 per GB and key features include data recovery and a Web portal. For more information on Unitrends Vault2Cloud, call 803-454-0300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
UpdateStar Online Backup - UpdateStar offers users an unlimited amount of online storage space. It also provides users with automated backups, file recovery, and a free trial of the product can be downloaded. UpdateStar is currently compatible with Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7. To find out more about UpdateStar Online Backup, call +49-30-4303-4350 or email email@example.com.
Windows Live Mesh - Live Mesh is available from Windows and fully integrates with the online Windows Live service. With Live Mesh, users can access files and folders that have been stored on their computers remotely through the Windows Live interface. Folders can also be synced and computers can be updated simultaneously. To learn more about Windows Live Mesh, visit http://explore.live.com/windows-live-mesh-devices-sync-upgrade-ui.
Windows Live Sync - Windows Live Sync allows users to keep files up to date on both Macs and PCs. It is accessed through the free Windows Live service and provides users with remote access to any computer that has Live Sync installed on it. For more information about Windows Live Sync, visit http://sync.live.com/.
YouSendIt - YouSendIt offers free and paid for plans to individuals and businesses who require online storage. The free plan provides users with the ability to transfer large files, send files to others, and receive files via a personal dropbox. Paying subscribers can enjoy increased functionality and the ability to upload and send larger files. To learn more about YouSendIt, call 408-879-9118
ZumoDrive - ZumoDrive is offered by Zector, which was founded in 2007. It allows Mac users to easily sync data across multiple devices, and share files and folders via email and generated file links. It also offers mobile access to iPhone users and a free plan is available for users who require only 2 GB of storage space or less. To find out more about ZumoDrive, visit http://www.zumodrive.com.