Best Cloud Services

Choosing the best cloud service comes down to personal preference based on whether you want to access files on the go, back up your files for security or collaborate with colleagues on projects.

Best Cloud Service for Personal Use

More than 50 million Americans subscribe to Amazon Prime. That’s a huge number of people who get free access to Amazon Cloud Drive for their photos. A Prime member gets 5GB of space for photos, videos and music at no extra cost.

If you need more space and want to store data other than just family photos, you can subscribe to Amazon Cloud Drive for less than $5 per month – and its unlimited storage space. The only caveat is that it’s for personal use only.

Amazon Drive touts itself as your personal hard drive in the cloud. While its basic functionality is virtually identical to other cloud services, Amazon distinguishes itself from the competition with a unique and appealing focus on media. Subsequently, the cloud service is a win for music lovers, but for others, Amazon noticeably lacks the convenience and usability of its competitors.

With Amazon Drive, you only pay for what you need. The cloud service provides several storage-tier plans that will work for you, regardless of how much – or little – cloud storage you need. In addition to flexible plans, Amazon provides great content support, allowing you to upload anything digital, including documents, music, photos and videos, with no limit on file size. You can then preview and upload saved files from any computer with an internet connection.

Perhaps most notable about the service is its focus on music. Not only can you can store your existing music library in Amazon Drive, but any MP3 you purchase from Amazon in the future is saved as well.

Amazon’s content support and music capabilities may be noteworthy, but the rest of its features are disappointingly not. The cloud service doesn’t have any capacity for collaboration, and you cannot edit documents in the cloud; you must download files on your computer in order to make any changes. Amazon also lacks syncing, so you must do all the legwork yourself. Amazon Drive offers mobile access for Android and iOS devices. It also offers a desktop app for PC and Macs.

Amazon Drive isn’t difficult to use, but it is noticeably clunky and lackluster compared to other cloud services. Uploading and downloading files can be time consuming. All the same, the service is pretty self-explanatory and new users shouldn’t have trouble navigating the web interface.

Amazon Drive is a cloud service that’s rough around the edges but definitely has potential. It provides cost-efficient plans, widespread file support and a built-in music player. If the service gains any traction, expect Amazon to capitalize on the service’s untapped potential and fine-tune it to be on par with the competition.


Most Affordable Cloud Service for Small Businesses

As a small business owner, you’re trying to save money at every turn. When choosing a cloud service, you want as much free space as possible and the lowest cost for the most space available. Microsoft OneDrive is the most affordable cloud service out there.

Out of the gate, you get 5GB of storage space free. For less than $2 per month, you can sign up for the basic plan that nets you 50GB of storage. Business plans start at $5 per month for 1TB of cloud storage per user. If you’re willing to pay double – $10 per month per user – you can get 5TB of storage for each employee, but you need at least five users to be eligible.

If you already use Windows 10, you probably already also use OneDrive, Microsoft’s well-integrated cloud service. It was previously known as SkyDrive, and it works well for both backing up your important documents, photos and media as well as giving you easy online access to those files.

You don’t have to download additional software to sync your files on your PC with the cloud service. OneDrive automatically syncs your files when something changes. And Microsoft made OneDrive available for Mac users too. It’s also available for mobile devices and older versions of Windows.

OneDrive is a good choice if you just want to store files in the cloud for easy access, but it’s also a good choice if you want file backup with syncing options. You can try the service out for free, but you only get 5GB free. If you subscribe to the software as a service Office 365, you get 1TB free. One of the best options of OneDrive is that you can tack on 50GB at a time for just $1.99. So, if your storage needs are low, you don’t have to pay more for storage you don’t need.

Unlike other cloud services, OneDrive offers a unique feature in that you can sort of create a copy of one PC on another by simply logging into your OneDrive account. It remembers your background theme, your email accounts, social sites and more.

In addition to accessing your files online through OneDrive, you can also edit those files. Users you’ve allowed to access files can also be allowed to edit files, and those documents are updated in real time. You get comprehensive file support with OneDrive, including email (Outlook and Hotmail), calendar and social network apps.

Another unique feature of OneDrive is that you can access files from any PC that you’ve installed and authorized OneDrive on – even if those files weren’t added to and synced in OneDrive. The fetch feature lets you grab a file that you may have forgotten to upload or sync.

OneDrive is a cloud service that acts as both file storage and backup, but it goes even further with unique features that let you copy your PC settings at home to another PC, or grab files from folders that aren’t even synced in your OneDrive folder.


Best Cloud Service for Editing on the Fly

One of the biggest conveniences of storing your files in the cloud is the ability to access them anywhere you are. Some cloud services take that convenience one step further and allow you to edit your files in real time. This can be a huge timesaver for anyone who needs to make changes immediately, such as writers, designers, editors and lawyers.

The best cloud service for editing files is G Suite by Google Cloud, previously known as Google Apps. If you’re familiar with Google Docs, or Google Drive, you’ll easily pick up on G Suite. Using a Chrome extension, you can quickly open a Microsoft Office file, edit it and the changes are saved automatically. You can also set permissions on files that allow others to edit, comment or access certain files.

Google introduced its cloud computing service solution as Google Apps, and now it’s known as G Suite by Google Cloud. This cloud-based service can be tailored for both individual users and businesses of any size. There’s no single cloud cupboard, or online space, where the service stores your content. Rather, G Suite is consists of an extensive lineup of apps that function independently rather than as a collective whole. It offers rich functionality, unrivaled accessibility and loads of value, but it comes at the cost of a rather fragmented cloud experience.

Through Google’s apps, you can store virtually any type of file in the cloud. Email and calendars are available through Gmail, the company’s flagship app. Google Docs allows you to create, edit and collaborate on Office-style documents, including word processor docs, spreadsheets and presentations. Storing files outside of these apps gets tricky but can be done by saving files as email attachments in your Gmail. You can also sync your email, contacts and calendars in Gmail with the built-in email and calendaring applications on any mobile device.

When it comes to security, G Suite employs password protection and advanced file encryption to keep files secure. What the cloud service doesn’t have is a desktop app, which is hardly surprising considering the service is based entirely in the cloud. However, this also severely limits access to your content while offline.

With G Suite, if you can get online, then you can access stored content. The cloud service enables access to its apps from the most common types of mobile devices, including Android, iPhone, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile. You can also sign into your Google account from any computer or mobile browser.

Complexity isn’t the issue with Google in terms of usability – division is. Your cloud experience with G Suite will be heavily fragmented, as the service has different products for different types of media. In practice, it isn’t as complicated as it sounds, but it’d more cumbersome to manage all of your content. More importantly, you may not find all the Google apps to your liking.

G Suite delivers a true cloud experience and a lot of value for the money. It boasts unparalleled mobile access and allows you to store any type of file you want. However, the lack of seamless integration between each of its apps may hinder usability for some users.


The Cloud Service for All Your Storage Needs

Whether you’re in the market for home cloud storage or cloud services for your business, if you have a variety of large and small files, you need a solution that won’t limit you. Egnyte lets you store all types of files, from email and contacts to documents, music and video files. There’s also no cap on the file size, so you can upload large files, which many cloud services won’t allow. Not only do you have limitless storage capabilities with Egnyte – if you’re willing to pay for more allotment – you can also share files or folders with others. You set permissions for specific files or folders, and you can decide whether a user can simply view files or have the ability to edit or delete them.

Egnyte was designed for businesses from the ground up – the company provides a proprietary cloud solution that seamlessly combines the flexibility of the cloud with local storage on existing infrastructures. This unique hybrid approach enables easy accessibility, collaboration and scalability for businesses of all sizes.

Egnyte’s rich feature set is clearly tailored for businesses, with comprehensive file support, versatile file sharing and robust security measures. The service provides first-rate file support, allowing you to store virtually any type of file, including Word documents, slideshows, videos and more. You can even store music files, though you’ll need a third-party player to stream them.

Some cloud services limit file size when you are uploading to your account via the web interface. Egnyte has no such limitations, allowing you to conveniently and easily upload any size and type of file.

One notable difference between Egnyte and other cloud services is custom branding. Your unique Egnyte domain can be customized to reflect your brand. You can implement your logo on the Egnyte interface, message headers and more. The service also provides a custom access URL, allowing you to incorporate your company name into your Egnyte access URL.

Another standout feature of Egnyte is its file sharing. You can easily share files and collaborate with remote individuals from a single centralized access point. This in and of itself isn’t necessarily noteworthy, considering other cloud services provide file sharing; what is exceptional, however, is the service’s exhaustive folder-management capabilities. Detailed folder permissions allow you to define tight rules around access to certain data, which is especially important if you are housing sensitive or confidential information not every user should be privy to. Not only can you specify what users can see what folders, you can set permissions that give specific users the ability to edit and delete files.

Aside from user access permissions, Egnyte employs stringent security measures to safeguard data. All file transmissions to and from the Egnyte cloud file server are encrypted using 256-bit AES over SSL. Furthermore, all users are authenticated with a username and password, and as an administrator, you retain full control over access rights of all users and guests that you share data with.

As a hybrid cloud and local storage solution, Egnyte conveniently provides continual and automatic synchronization between local files and online copies. Surprisingly, not all cloud services provide automatic syncing, and Egnyte’s inclusion of this feature ensures you can access once-inaccessible files from any internet connection.

Egnyte fully leverages mobile devices to provide widespread accessibility to your files on the go. There are apps for the iPhone, iPad, Windows Mobile and devices with the Android and HP webOS operating systems. Also, your customized Egnyte domain can be accessed through any mobile web browser.

What we found most impressive regarding Egnyte’s mobile access is the fact that you can actually edit, not just view, files through their mobile applications. This is an important but often overlooked function and one that further enhances the service’s overall usability.

The interface is clean, intuitive and professional looking. Less tech-savvy users may be intimidated by the corporate skin but will quickly learn the service is easy to work with and navigate. Uploading is straightforward and remarkably fast, with single files uploaded in a mere second. Even uploading multiple files simultaneously (through the Java uploader) is noticeably quick; we were able to upload three folders containing more than 260 files in less than three minutes. Uploading via FTP is another option for larger files.

This cloud service clearly is not a viable option for consumers. For professionals and businesses of any size though, Egnyte’s hybrid approach to cloud computing and storage can be a cost-efficient and productive solution. The cloud service delivers a generous feature set, replete with vast file support, flexible mobile access and informative support resources.


The Cloud Service with More Free Space

A popular cloud storage and cloud backup service is Dropbox, and for good reason: You earn up to 16GB of free storage space with the basic account and up to 32GB of free storage with the pro account. Compared to the amount of storage space you get with a paid account, it doesn’t seem like much, but for free space, it’s a considerable amount. Most cloud services offer about 5GB of free storage space.

Dropbox has a program that allows you to recommend the service to your friends, and when they sign up, you get a bonus to your free allotment of storage space. If your storage needs and funds are low, this can be a great way to save files and money.

Dropbox is a simple yet sophisticated cloud service ideal for both consumers and small businesses. It offers seamless ease of use, a full feature set and more free storage space than others, if you refer friends and co-workers who sign up for the service.

Your Dropbox account serves as your personal hard drive online, or in the cloud. You can store virtually any type of file in Dropbox, including Word documents, photos and videos. Like the other cloud services we reviewed, Dropbox allows you to access saved content from any computer or device with an internet connection. Where Dropbox differs from competitors is its inclusion of a desktop app. You can download Dropbox and conveniently drag and drop files you want to save directly in the Dropbox folder on your desktop. Whether you’re using the desktop app or web interface, Dropbox provides instant access to your most important files, no matter where you are.

Dropbox’s feature set is brimming with functionality and features clearly tailored for convenience and usability. The service provides wide support of various file types. In addition to documents and photos, the cloud service allows you to save videos, slideshows and spreadsheets, making Dropbox a good fit for professionals and small businesses. You can also upload and store music files in your Dropbox account, though you cannot stream them through the application.

Unlike other cloud services, Dropbox does not have an inherent email client, address book or calendar, nor does it provide a native method for saving and syncing such files. Subsequently, you’ll have to use a third-party application to manage and sync your email, contacts and calendar across all your devices.

Dropbox, however, provides all the other features you’d want in a cloud service, including the flexibility to view, edit and share your content from any computer or device. In fact, the service allows you to share files with others (including individuals who do not have a Dropbox account) through links. For security purposes, the cloud service allows you to password protect your account and uses advanced encryption methods to transfer and store all your files.

The cloud service’s hallmark feature is its automatic syncing. Syncing begins as soon as you finish downloading Dropbox; you simply drag and drop any files you want to store to your Dropbox folder. The folder automatically syncs to the Dropbox website and any other computers linked to your account whenever new files are added or changes are made to existing files. Likewise, you can upload files through the service’s web interface, which will automatically sync to your computer’s dedicated Dropbox folder. If your computer is offline or powered off when files are added or changed on another computer or device, it is automatically synced as soon as it is reconnected to the internet.

Dropbox offers apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry. The service also has clients for all major operating systems: Windows, Mac and Linux. Also, you can access your Dropbox account from any mobile browser so technically the cloud service works on any device.

Part of Dropbox’s appeal is its simplicity. The web interface and mobile apps boast a clean, intelligent design that enables seamless and intuitive navigation. Dropbox isn’t the easiest cloud service to use right off the bat, but once you get used to it, operation of the service is simple and straightforward. Additionally, you can add files of any size to your Dropbox folder, whereas files uploaded through the web interface are capped at 300MB.

Simple to use and highly convenient, Dropbox is a well-designed and implemented cloud service ideal for syncing files across multiple devices. It is pricier than most of its competitors and its lack of an integrated email client and ability to sync email, contacts or calendars may be a deal breaker for some users. However, you may find that its automatic synchronization, seamless convenience and zero downtime are well worth the cost.


The Best Cloud Service for Mac Users

As a Mac user, you’re often limited to software and services that are for Mac users. The good news is that most of the services you’re able to use are excellent, and iCloud is one of the best cloud storage services available, regardless of operating system. You can store and access emails, contacts and calendar information, which most services don’t support. This cloud service also lets you keep documents, slideshows, music and video files. The biggest benefit to using iCloud for your files is that it syncs with all of your devices, including your Mac laptop, iPhone, iPad and other iOS devices.

iCloud is Apple’s commendable attempt to unify its wildly popular product lines with a seamless, integrated cloud solution. The service has an intuitive ease of use, supports a range of file types and offers its well-known syncing functionality, which wirelessly pushes your stored files to all of your devices automatically. iCloud may not make much sense to use if you aren’t already on Apple’s system, but for those who are, this cloud service is a winner.

iCloud functions as your personal hard drive in the cloud, storing documents, music, photos and more. Any file you create, upload or change on one computer or device is automatically synced to the rest of your devices. This is in stark contrast to other cloud services that simply allow you to access your files through the cloud. With iCloud, you’re able to access your files whether you are connected to the internet or not. The service also provides an integrated email client, address book and calendar, which you can likewise keep synced across all your iCloud-compatible devices.

While iCloud can store and sync nearly any type of file, this versatility isn’t without a caveat. To truly store documents and data files in iCloud, you must purchase Apple’s iWork apps: Keynote, Pages and Numbers. These apps allow you to create spreadsheets, Word docs and presentations, while iCloud keeps these files up-to-date on your devices and the web. The only workaround to this is to store files in your email account; you attach a document to an email and either send it to yourself or save it as a draft. However, this technique isn’t very convenient and keeping track of multiple documents this way is far from simple. If iCloud is your service of choice, the best option is to purchase the iWork apps. The cost of the apps won’t break the bank, but the fact that you have to spend extra to make iCloud fully functional may rankle a few users.

Where iCloud excels is media. Apple’s iCloud was designed to seamlessly integrate with iTunes. With the cloud service, any new music, movies or TV shows you purchase through iTunes are automatically and wirelessly pushed to all your devices. This is especially notable because it eradicates Apple’s cord-reliant process of uploading media to each of your devices. However, you’ll still have to store the songs on your devices in order to play them. In fact, most of the files you store through iCloud are stored on your devices and are simply transmitted through the cloud.

While you can view, edit and stream files using iCloud, file sharing is a different story. The cloud service is tailored more for sharing with oneself rather than others. Subsequently, iCloud isn’t a good option if collaboration or file sharing is a priority.

Naturally, access to iCloud primarily falls within the realms of the Apple ecosystem; the cloud service is compatible with the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and will be with any future iOS device. You can also sync a Mac with iCloud, and in a most surprising compromise, a Windows-based PC as well. Additionally, you can access the web interface of your iCloud account from any web browser.

When it comes to ease of use, iCloud is one of the simplest cloud services. Your files are in one place, and it doesn’t require any hands-on management; you simply download or save a file once, and it is instantly available on all of your devices. The service is intuitive and easy to navigate, and even those timid about using cloud services will find it accessible and remarkably uncomplicated.

This cloud service works beautifully and seamlessly within the Apple ecosystem. It’s sleek, robust and extremely user friendly. iCloud is a must if you are a consumer or small business already using Apple products; you’ll be able to access all your digital files and media anytime and from any one of your Apple devices without having to manually sync them.


Cloud Service Reviews

Of the cloud services available on the market, Box is one that offers storage, back up and sync options, and access for PCs, Macs, and mobile devices of all kinds. While Box is a viable candidate for personal or business users, it’s better suited for business accounts for a few reasons.

As far as the free account goes, you can sign up for Box and get 10GB of free space. If that isn’t enough, you can sign up for a paid account, which nets you 100GB of storage. With Box’s two other plans, Business and Enterprise, you get unlimited storage and a maximum file upload cap of 5GB.

The Business and Enterprise plans come with some caveats. First, there’s a minimum requirement of three users per account, and with the starter plan, a maximum of 10 people. If you choose the less-expensive plan, you won’t get custom branding or a few advanced features that come with the higher-priced plans. Another limitation of Box is that you can’t upload files bigger than 5GB on the higher-priced plans for both personal and business, 2GB on the Starter business plan, and 250MB on the free personal plan.

Collaboration is a little clunky through Box compared to some cloud services that let you edit files in real time, but it’s still easy enough. You and your colleagues can preview files without having to download them first, which is helpful. To edit, though, you’ll have to download the file, make your changes and then upload it to Box. The good news, however, is that Box offers automatic version control, so you have the latest document available every time, but older versions are saved in case you need to revert to one.

Box gives you a lot of flexibility with its collaboration features. You can share files and folders with colleagues or set permissions to allow only certain individuals to see or edit files. As a personal user, this means you can keep some items private, while sharing photos of your vacation with friends and family. As a business, you can share files with clients or contractors that are pertinent to their projects, while keeping proprietary information private.

Like other popular cloud services, you can create new documents from Box’s website app, but an added benefit is the ability to assign tasks to certain users, which eliminates the need for task management software for small teams.

Box offers mobile apps for both iOS and Android devices, and you have more than just the ability to view files from the app. You can upload photos, videos and other files from your mobile device to Box, which makes them immediately available to others, so you have even easier ways to collaborate.

Box is a cloud service that works as file storage, file backup and a place for collaboration among business teams, or clients and contractors. You don’t get as much storage space for the money as other cloud services, but you get a lot of extras, such as task management and file uploads from the mobile app.


IDrive refers to itself as a cloud backup and syncing solution, but it’s also a good choice for simple cloud storage. This cloud service is viable for individuals and businesses, and it offers features not commonly found in other cloud services.

The files you keep on your computer are vulnerable to hard drive crashes and corruption from malware or hardware faults. You can keep your files safe by backing them up and storing them in the cloud using IDrive. Its free plan gives you 5GB of storage to start with, and its basic plan for personal use starts at 1TB. For business plans, you can get 250GB annually, and you can create multiple accounts for employees.

Whether you use a PC, Mac, iOS or Android devices, you can use IDrive to store and back up your files in the cloud. You can gain access to your files from IDrive apps for your mobile devices, and you can share files through these apps. Files are synced in real time, so you don’t have to worry about data loss. Additionally, you can set up IDrive to sync your files at a specific time.

File sharing through IDrive is as easy as right-clicking and choosing the options to create a link and send via Facebook, Twitter or email. You can also set permissions to allow users accessing the files to only view them or to edit them if you wish.

IDrive offers archiving so that none of your data is lost to carelessness. You have to manually delete files or choose IDrive’s archive cleanup tool to sync your computer’s data to what’s on your account. In addition to storing and backing up your photos from your computer, you can also back up your Facebook and Instagram photos.

The biggest differences between personal and business IDrive accounts is that you cannot create sub accounts for a personal account, and you don’t get priority support. Business accounts also get MS SQL, MS Exchange, MS SharePoint and Oracle server backup or Linux server backup, and your business gets assistance with backups.

Although IDrive considers itself a cloud backup service, it’s also a viable option as cloud storage. This cloud service does it all and lets you share your secured files with a few quick clicks.


OpenDrive is a cloud service that allows you to not only back up your data, but also to upload and access specific content, such as documents, photos, video and music. One terrific feature is the ability to edit documents that aren’t on your main computer and sync files via the cloud to other computers and iOS devices. You can also collaborate with others on your projects, but you can’t sync your email, contacts or calendar.

What sets OpenDrive apart from some cloud services is the ability to make changes to files on any of your devices, and those changes will be saved on all synced computers and iOS devices. For example, if you write a report at work and decide later you need to make changes, you can open the OpenDrive app on your home computer and make changes. They will appear on all the computers you’ve synced to this cloud service. There is an option to make changes, then save and create a new document.

Once you’ve uploaded files to OpenDrive, you can share links to specific documents with others so they can collaborate with you. You can find and copy the links from the OpenDrive cloud service app or from your online account. No one is able to access anything without your providing a hotlink, plus all your data and files are secure, using a 128-bit encrypted SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) connection.

The public folder is also a great way to share files and collaborate with others, and fortunately it isn’t open for anyone online to find and access the files. You can allow certain users to only see specific items you upload, such as a report you’re working on with a co-worker. But they won’t be able to see vacation photos you’ve uploaded to your OpenDrive public folder for your friends and family to view.

When collaborating with others, any changes you or they make will appear across all synced computers. You won’t have any issues with trying to figure out which document version is current since changes are made across all devices in real time.

If you don’t have a Mac or Windows PC with the OpenDrive app downloaded, you can log into your account from any browser and access the document to make changes.

You can set up OpenDrive to back up all your important data by downloading the app to your Windows PC or Mac and setting it up to save whichever files or folders you’d like to back up. Files and folders are backed up safely, so if your system fails, you can restore data easily to your new computer or hard drive.

You’re not limited to just sharing and syncing documents with this cloud service but also photos, music and videos. Once you’ve uploaded files, you’re be able to view these across your synced computers and iOS devices.

While working between multiple operating systems and devices, including Windows, OS X and the iPhone or iPad, can be tricky, OpenDrive’s intuitive apps and website interface keep things simple so you’re not clicking around trying to find certain features or files. OpenDrive’s greatest feature is the ability to create documents on one computer, which you can then access and edit online with your iOS device or another computer. 


SugarSync is a cloud service with several plans to choose from for personal users and businesses alike. It’s a way to keep your files secure in the cloud but also access them any time you need. You can use it as a backup service, or as an additional hard drive for your photos, media or documents.

Personal plans start at 100GB. You can expand to 250GB of storage or choose the biggest plan for 500GB. Business plans start with a lot more storage, but it comes with some restrictions. You can get 1TB of storage to be used between one to three users. The good news here is that you can scale up as you need more space or gain more employees.

SugarSync works similarly to other cloud services with its syncing methods. You can download a desktop app and drag folders or files to it to automatically sync. If you have SugarSync on your mobile devices or other desktops, those files will be available there too.

One benefit of using SugarSync to share files is that you can do so without giving anyone access to your SugarSync account or the myriad files you have uploaded. Simply create a public link that you can share through Facebook, Twitter or email and the recipient only has access to what you want them to see. Plus, they don’t have to sign up for SugarSync.

If you want to share files or folders for collaborative purposes, you can do so, and you can set permissions to allow certain users to only view, or to also edit. Users can access files from SugarSync’s web app, install the desktop app or use a mobile app for either iOS or Android devices.

SugarSync is clear about its limitations. The company suggests you store no more than 80,000 files in a folder; otherwise, you may experience syncing issues because of the amount of metadata needed. Also, it does not support email files, iPhoto databases, iTunes databases and other common file types. SugarSync archives your files though, also known as versioning. You can save up to five versions.


Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Cloud Service

  1. What do I need to store, and how much space do I really need? Before you can settle on a service, first analyze your needs. If you absolutely must have a place to upload your calendar or your email and contacts, then you need a service that allows it. Additionally, you don’t want to pay for more than what you’ll use. Having said that, you also want to make sure the cloud service you choose grows with your business or your music and photo collection. Most of the cloud services in our guide offer seemingly unlimited space, but be prepared to pay for it, which leads to the next question.
  2. What am I willing to pay? While you can get free storage from some cloud services, it’s limited. The convenience of cloud storage extends to the cost – most cloud services let you pay a low monthly fee for data storage and access. These prices generally range from $3 to $10 per month and increase as your data needs grow.
  3. Is it important that I access my files from different access points (i.e., Android, iPhone, Windows, etc.)? Each cloud service lets you upload, download and access files via an internet browser. So, really, all you need is an internet connection to get to your data. However, it may be preferable to choose a service that offers an app for both iPhones and Android devices. If this is necessary, avoid cloud storage providers that only service Mac users.

 Accessing Files from Your Phone
Mobility is the biggest convenience of technology today. For so long, you could only work at the office or take your physical work home with you. Cloud services make it easier than ever for you to access files, emails and contacts through your phone or tablet, which expands your office to your morning commute on the train, to the coffeehouse while you grab a latte or even on the beach, if that’s where you want to work.

Being able to access data from your mobile device also means that your clients can do the same. So, you can meet with a client outside of an office, or simply send a link to a file, which can be viewed, or even edited, immediately. This level of convenience is available from most cloud services.

What About Security?
When you have control over where your data goes and who can access it, you get to decide how you protect that data and access. You may have an IT team that manages the security of your servers and hardware, which can be comforting. Relinquishing that control can be scary, but security over the cloud has improved and increased over the years.

One of the biggest concerns about security is a data breach. If you store usernames and passwords, proprietary information or other confidential information, a data breach can be devastating. The good news is most cloud services employ encryption to protect your information and multiple authentication processes for logins.


Deciphering Cloud Services 

With some of the world s most prominent tech companies rolling out cloud services, cloud computing has become all the rage. Yet confusion about what the cloud actually is and how it works seems to be growing, not diminishing. It s not just consumers who are puzzled; many business owners, corporate professionals and even some IT people don t fully comprehend this nebulous concept. So what exactly do companies and techies mean when they refer to the cloud? Here we shed some light on the cloud and cloud services to help you navigate the bewildering tech talk.

Tackling the Cloud
The cloud is nothing more than a warm and fuzzy abstract metaphor for the internet, or more literally, the vast array of storage servers around the globe that comprise it. When a file is stored in the cloud, this simply means the file resides on one of those servers and can be accessed through an internet connection. Cloud applications, such as web-based email, work in the same way; you access the application through a web browser or app on an internet-connected device. Applications and files in the cloud differ from local ones, which are saved locally on a computer hard drive.

What Is a Cloud-Based Service?
In the broadest sense, cloud-based services can be any type of web service or application that lives in the cloud and is accessed online. For instance, Google s Gmail is a cloud-based service, as is Facebook. Both sites are vastly different in purpose but are by definition cloud-based services because of how they operate: you access the service, and the files you save through them, on the internet.

Differentiating Cloud Service Providers
It seems that everyone has a slightly different definition of what a cloud service is and what it should provide. While not all cloud services are created equal, they do provide the same basic functionality. Cloud services provide computing as a service rather than a product, essentially giving you your own personal hard drive in the cloud, or online. You can upload and store your files on the provider s servers, via an internet connection, rather than locally on your own computer or other storage device.

The advantages of using a cloud service are numerous. Most appealing is the fact that you can access any of your stored files   photos, music, Word documents and more   from any internet connection on a computer or handheld device. This gives you convenient access to your files no matter where you are. It also ensures you ll never lose your files if your local hard drive is damaged or stolen.

Truth be told, the cloud is simple and there s a good chance you re already using some type of cloud-based service. How you utilize the cloud moving forward is highly dependent on your habits and the types of digital content you most frequently use. Regardless, a solid understanding of what the cloud is and how it works will help you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to this revolutionary technology.


Getting the Most out of Cloud Services

So you decided to make the move to cloud services and the accompanying cloud software. While many of the cloud applications features are similar to computer desktop versions, there are some additional tips and workflows we d love to share with you. You ll get the most out of any cloud services you decide to choose, including syncing it with your computers and mobile and handheld devices.

Working with Email, Contacts and Calendar

As we mentioned in our reviews of the excellent and refined Apple MobileMe and Google Apps, it s easy to keep track of your email, contacts (address book) and calendar, in the cloud, on your computer and on your mobile device. This is the big benefit of cloud services: syncing multiple devices, so you re not dragging your laptop with you to keep track of your messages, phone numbers and schedule.

With MobileMe cloud services, you simply log onto the website to check the array of cloud software, such as Email, Contacts, Calendar, Gallery (photos or videos), iDisk (virtual hard drive) and Find My iPhone. You can do this from any Mac or Windows computer s web browser (latest versions of Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer are supported), and you ll always stay up-to-date on everything.

 If you don t want to go onto a browser, it s very easy to setup your Mac s Mail, Address Book and iCal software applications to sync with the MobileMe versions. Make sure you re running the latest version of Mac OS X. Go into your System Preferences pane, and click on MobileMe under Internet & Wireless.

From there, setup your Account info (username and password), then click on Sync and checkmark the items you want to sync with your desktop and MobileMe cloud services. iDisk and Back to My Mac allows syncing of the iDisk and file sharing between compatible devices, respectively.

Now you ll have your MobileMe account and your Apple computer synced up. If you re on a Windows PC, you ll need the latest versions of the MobileMe Control Panel, Outlook and iTunes. Launch the MobileMe Control Panel, select MobileMe (Network and Internet) and enter your log-in information.

From there, click Sync and choose  Sync with MobileMe  and  Automatically.  From there, checkmark everything you want to sync to your MobileMe cloud, such as Email, Contacts, Calendar and more. Hit the Sync Now button. For email, you can use Outlook or Windows Mail, but make sure you re using an IMAP setting.

If you re on an Apple iOS device, such as the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, click on Settings; under accounts, choose MobileMe and put in your log-in information. Turn on Mail, Contacts, and the rest you wish to sync. Then click  Merge with MobileMe,  and you re set. You can setup other devices, such as the Blackberry, Google Android and even Google Apps.

We hope this starts guide to using cloud services helps you get the most out of key features found in MobileMe and Google Apps cloud services. Make sure you check out the respective reviews to learn more about uploading and sharing photos and videos, files and more.

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