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Microsoft Skydrive; Box.com; Dropbox; and now Google Drive. These are all contenders in the cloud storage marketplace, which is suddenly heating up.
What is Cloud Storage?
The “Cloud” has become a ubiquitous term that, in its simplest form, just means the Internet. Cloud is a good, descriptive word, I think. It’s amorphous; out there somewhere in the sky; you can’t touch or feel it, but you know it’s there.
“Cloud Storage” is, therefore, a place to store you digital stuff on the Internet. Think of it as your online hard drive. It’s a hard drive that is available to you wherever you have Internet access. There are a number of applications for cloud storage, including:
- Remote Back Up – You can back up your important files, photos, what-have-you remotely on the cloud. Then, in the event of a disaster with your computer, your important stuff is still intact on the Internet.
- File Syncing – You can put files that you need to access from multiple devices into cloud storage. Then, regardless of where you are, whether you’re using your computer or someone else’s, or if you’re on your smart phone or tablet, you have access to those files. This is great for people who travel.
- File Sharing – If you are collaborating on a project or simply wish to give access to selected files to others, you can do that by defining special “shared” folders in your cloud storage account.
I travel quite a bit and have certain files that I want to access, regardless of where I am or whose computer I might be on. So I set up a Microsoft Skydrive account a few months ago to put my important files always within reach.
At that time, Skydrive gave me a very generous 25 GB of storage… too generous apparently. As Microsoft’s competitors offer only a small fraction of that, Microsoft has cut back their free storage to 7GB, which is still more than the biggest competitors.
Google’s entry into the cloud storage marketplace has been anticipated for some time. But this week, it happened with their “Google Drive.” Google Drive gives you 5GB of free space, with upgrades available for a price.
I tried signing up for Google Drive and found that it was not available to me yet. It is being rolled out and should be universally available soon.
Box.com offers 5GB of free storage, which, I’m sure, was a major consideration in Google’s selection of the same limit. As with all these services, expanded storage limits are available for a price.
Dropbox is yet another cloud storage company. Until this week it’s free limit was 2GB, which gave them the dubious distinction of offering the least free storage. The impact of Google’s entry into the market is illustrated by the fact that Dropbox immediately boosted their free allotment to 5GB to match Google.
There are other variables in the various offerings besides space, but since the incentive for using these products is storage, space will always be the first consideration.
There are other companies besides the ones I mentioned above, and more are in the works. Google’s entry into the market has set a fire under the pot of contenders, and it will be interesting to watch it boil.
I’ll compare the top options in more detail at a later date, when the market has fine-tuned itself a little more.