7 free cloud storage options

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(Source: Alexander Bedrin via 123RF) (Source: Alexander Bedrin via 123RF)
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The more sophisticated our mobile devices become, the more we use them to create awesome stuff. The hitch comes when our beloved devices run out of space for said stuff. It happens. All the time. And usually at the worst possible moment.

That’s where cloud storage comes in – a gift from the tech gods, the kind of thing on which Technical Boy* thrives, for he is the internet personified, or perhaps deified.

There are, of course, any number of premium services out there. But who wants to pay for cloud storage? Not I.

What is it that Scott Pasmore and Javier Soto always say? “If it’s free, I’ll take three.”

There are a variety of options for free cloud storage. I’m not talking about trials. I’m talking no-strings-attached free. You’ve probably heard of some them. But the “big names” are not the only players.

When picking a service, storage space is not the only variable to consider. You also need to look at bandwidth limitations (the amount of data that can be downloaded during a set period of time, usually a day or a month), sharing options, streaming capabilities and how you access your storage space.

Personally, I use a combination of services.

It’s also important to remember that cloud storage and cloud backup are not synonymous. Sure, they work together, but they are not interchangeable. Backup requires storage, but storage is not always used for backup. Capisce?

So here are some options. (For sake of ease, I went with alphabetical order.)

[INFOGRAM: Storage space compared]

Degoo

With the stunning 100 GB, this little Swedish company kind of breaks my graph, especially when you throw in the maximum bonus of 500 GB.

“More than Dropbox and Google Drive combine,” Degoo’s website says.

Yep. That’s true. But how?

“We've developed a new compression which enables us to store data at a much lower cost than our competitors,” Degoo.com explains. 

If storage is your only consideration, this could be a great way to go. The fact is, however, that it lacks some of the more specialized features that are standard with some other service. What you have to remember is that Degoo focuses on backup and storage only. Sharing and syncing, which are excellent with other services, are not its thing.

“Focusing solely on backup enables us to create a truly awesome backup experience without any compromises,” according to an article in the Degoo Help Center.

This is where using a combination of services can come in handy.

Degoo is available on Mac, Windows, iOS and Android.

Dropbox

This is the go-to for many people because it’s so simple to use. Basically it’s a folder on your desktop, like any other folder. Whatever you drop in there is uploaded automatically. I have an account that I use on a daily basis. Two accounts, actually – one for work and one that’s personal (I had the personal one first).

You start out with 2GB, which isn’t a ton, particularly if you’re a shutterbug, but you can earn up to 18GB by referring friends. When they sign up for free, you get a bump.

Sharing stuff is a breeze. You can share single documents or entire folders. What’s nice is the person with whom you are sharing does not need to have an account.

You can access your account(s) via a web interface with a nice little dashboard, a desktop app or a mobile app. Dropbox supports all of the major platforms.

With the mobile apps, you have the option to automatically upload all of your photos. Set it and forget it.

Google Drive

This is ubiquitous, so I’ll be quick here. Google users get 15 GB of free storage to share among Google Services like Gmail, Photos and files on Drive.

In additions to straight storage, Google Drive has a built-in productivity suite that includes Docs (word processor), Sheets (spreadsheet) and Slides (presentation a la PowerPoint). Google Drive also tracks changes made to documents.

Google offers sync client for Windows and Mac and mobile apps for iOS and Android that can automatically upload photos and videos.

Sharing is easy. You can share with specific Google users through their Gmail addresses or go wide with a public link. You also have the option to restrict downloading by making shared files view-only.

FlipDrive

With 10 GB of free storage space plus another 10 for friend referrals, FlipDrive is a middle-of-the-road service. You can share files and folders, but you are limited to a file size of 25 MB. A video file can easily be bigger than that.

Also, you can only have 10 sharing links.

Another limitation is its lack of desktop and mobile clients. FlipDrive is strictly web based.

FlipDrive, which describes itself as “your internet hard drive,” boasts global access to your stuff – anywhere you have an internet connection -- but seeing as that’s part of the point of cloud storage, that seems like it should be a given rather than a “feature.” But that’s just me.

With its own built-in apps to create photos albums, manage contacts and save bookmarks, FlipDrive seems to be a self-contained service. There is no file syncing. So far as I can see, everything is done manually. What’s more is that there are no mobile apps. Considering how much I do with and on my phone, that’s a serious drawback.

For somebody who is a little more old-school and doesn’t require much in the way of automation or mobile access, FlipDrive could be a workable option.

MEGA

Described by several reviewers as “one of the most popular free cloud storage services,” Mega offers new users a generous 50 GB, the most of any free service I looked at. (There’s only one that outdoes MEGA -- Degoo, which is first on the list.) What’s more, Mega looks out for your privacy with end-to-end encryption.

“Unlike most other cloud storage providers, only you control who has access to your data,” the company’s website boasts. “Not even MEGA can access it!”

Your stuff is available to you through a browser, a desktop app or a mobile app.

MEGA also offers real-time collaboration and versioning features.

OneDrive

This is Microsoft’s contribution to the world of cloud storage. It’s pre-installed on Windows 10, which is handy, and allows you to share stuff on PC, Mac, iOS and Android.

It offers 5 GB plus another 10 through friend referrals.

One of the best things about OneDrive, in my opinion, is the ease of collaboration it offers using its flagship products – Word, Excel and PowerPoint -- among desktop, web and mobile devices.

pCloud

You start with 10 GB and can earn up to 20 total through friend referrals.

There are no speed or file size caps and you can filter your files by type (images, audio, video, etc.). Not only can you stream files, you can stream a whole folder of them, which is perfect when you need some tunes.

You also can upload from a remote URL or email files directly to your account using a unique email address, which is super handy. You can also have somebody else upload files to account via that email address or a shared URL.

One of the things I really like is the ability to back up photos from social sites like Facebook, Instrgram and Picasa.

Sharing options are pretty basic and there is no option to password protect shared files or folders.

[RELATED: Online vs. traditional backup: What you need to know]

[MORE: Are online backup services safe?]

[RELATED: How to free up storage space on your smartphone]

That said…

When all is said and done, when you take MEGA and especially Degoo out of the mix, the storage space offerings from the various services are comparable. That means you’ll really want to think about your needs and look at things like syncing and sharing, as well as the availability and functionality of desktop and mobile apps.

Having cloud storage is great – and necessary in today’s media-hungry on-the-go world. But if a service is too clunky or doesn’t do what you need, it won’t do you any good.

So

Do you have a favorite cloud storage service -- free or premium? Something that has saved your digital bacon? I'd love to hear about it!

[MORE TECH STUFF: Data Doctors]

[INFOGRAM: Compare the free space offered by these 7 services]

*Note: Technical Boy is one of the so-called New Gods from Neil Gaiman's book "American Gods," which is now a series on STARZ.  

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