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Mostly Cloudy: A Comparison of Popular Online Storage Solutions

It’s hard to find any computer user who has not heard the terms “cloud computing” or “the cloud.” With the exploding popularity of cloud storage solutions, even savvy users face a bewildering variety of choices when selecting personal or business cloud storage. The following options offer good value and attractive features at competitive prices.

1. ShareFile

If you are searching for an easy, safe, and secure method of sharing files for your business, ShareFile has a lot to offer. Your ShareFile portal can be customized to complement your website—complete with your logo–and your clients can be assigned password-protected folders to which only they have access. The service relies on a web-based user interface, so no extra software is required to access your files. If you use Microsoft Outlook, ShareFile offers an Outlook plugin that allows users to send files without using Outlook’s attachment functionality. ShareFile’s technology specifically addresses business needs by providing a secure method of sharing large files without the issues that sometimes plague transfers using File Transfer Protocol (FTP). The solution also includes an upload “resume” feature; in the event that your upload is interrupted, the upload will automatically resume once your Internet connection stabilizes. Once your file has been uploaded, the intended recipient receives an email containing a download link to that file. The main drawback to using ShareFile for business is that the service does not permit users to work on documents collaboratively while they reside on the remote server. Nevertheless, if your business needs a secure file sharing and delivery solution, Sharefile’s system is hard to beat.

2. Google User Managed Storage

Google’s cloud storage solution offers a web interface, and you can synchronize your Microsoft Office documents with Google Docs using their “Cloud Connect” plug-in. Google has set their maximum allowable file size at 10 GB—one of the largest file size limits among the various storage providers. Additional storage is relatively cheap; it will cost you $5 per year for 20 GB of storage up to a maximum of $250 per year for a whopping 1 TB of space in the Google cloud. At present, a mobile application is only available for the Android operating system, and an iPhone application is said to be on the way.

3. Windows SkyDrive

Microsoft offers the largest entry level storage block in the industry, with the basic SkyDrive account including 25 GB of storage free of charge. If you use Microsoft Office, you can synchronize your Office files with SkyDrive using Windows Live Mesh. At this time, Mesh is only available for the Microsoft Windows and Apple OS X “Lion” operating systems. Windows SkyDrive does not support mobile applications for Android or iPhone, but it does include native support for Windows smartphones. Microsoft has placed a 100MB size limit on files uploaded to SkyDrive. If you have need for a large and inexpensive block of online storage and if you have a Windows phone, this may be the cloud you’re looking for.

4. iCloud

For those of you who own an iPhone, iCloud is a solution worth considering; Apple has very seamlessly integrated its cloud solution into its iPhone, iPad and desktop computer line. iCloud can synchronize your iWork documents and email, and the synchronized files can be accessed by either mobile application or web browser. The free version of iCloud provides you with 5 GB of online storage although the file size limit is a rather diminutive 25 MB. The paid version offers a maximum of 50 GB of storage for $100 per year, and the file size limit is increased to 250 MB. A unique feature of iCloud is that music and video files uploaded to the cloud do not count against your allocated storage if they were purchased through Apple’s iTunes service.

5. Dropbox

Dropbox is perhaps the most well-known consumer and business cloud solution. Mobile application developers have integrated Dropbox into their Android and iOS applications, and several desktop applications incorporate Dropbox into their synchronization strategy. The Dropbox solution incorporates unique functionality to make your cloud experience complete and more user-friendly. A dedicated photo folder is included with your Dropbox account, and uploading photos to this photo folder automatically creates an online photo gallery that can be shared. Dropbox offers 2 GB of storage with their free account, and by participating in the referral program you can increase your free storage to 16 GB. You can upgrade your storage capacity within Dropbox to 50 GB for $100 per year.

Cloud storage applications continue to evolve and expand, and the convenience and security of backing up your important files online assures that these online storage solutions will continue to increase in importance and popularity.

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