To the average internet user, their first introduction to cloud storage services come from Google or Dropbox. Both offer basic free cloud storage as well as more advanced paid options. But with the rapidly expanding cloud services market, more and more players both big and small have entered the fray. And with constantly improving internet connectivity, and increasing amounts of personal data, making the jump from free to paid cloud storage options is fast becoming a necessity, not just an option. So let’s first cover the basics of what a paid personal cloud storage service essentially entails.
What is Cloud Storage?
Subscribing to a cloud storage service is like renting out a storage locker. You pay rent for an external storage facility where you can hold your stuff in privacy. You get constant and unfettered access to your belongings. The company takes care of the security and maintenance costs of the storage facility.
The one notable difference is, of course, the fact that you don’t have to drive out to the storage facility. Everything is handled remotely, from the comfort of your home/office using the internet. When it comes to online cloud storage services, the rates are determined mainly by the amount of storage you plan to use. And most cloud storage companies also provide other useful features and perks with their paid services. They include:
- Compatibility with multiple OS and platforms (PC/Mac/Mobile)
- Advanced bandwidth management options
- Scheduled and real-time backup facility
- Increased security and advanced encryption
- Connectivity with other apps
- Flexible and scalable storage capacity
- Advantages of Using Cloud Storage
There is a clear increase in demand for personal cloud storage these days. The main reason is the massive explosion of personal data in the last decade or so. With everybody having a smartphone or iPhone today, people are fast running out of storage space on their devices to hold their videos, photos, and music files. Physical storage devices are available, in the form of optical storage devices like Blu-ray disks, and flash memory devices in the form of USB sticks, memory cards and SSD drives.
But all these physical storage options suffer from several drawbacks. For starters, they can take up a lot of space, cluttering your room/workspace. And it is also very easy to misplace them, especially while travelling. These devices are also susceptible to damage, be it in the form of fire, dust, moisture, physical damage and not to mention the off chance of catastrophic device failure. And they also offer very little by way of scalability. By that, we mean the option to increase available storage space depending on your requirements dynamically. With these devices, once you reach the storage limit, you need to spend more to buy new ones.
Cloud storage is cheaper and more flexible. The service provided takes care of the maintenance, safety and security costs. They use sophisticated algorithms and encryption to protect your data privacy. Above all, your data is accessible from anywhere, provided there is internet access. You don’t have to carry around a bunch of flash sticks or SSD drives when you are on the move. And when you run out of storage space, you can usually bump up your subscription and get extra storage at a very nominal cost.
Software Solution 1: ZipCloud
ZipCloud is an online backup storage service for Mac users. This is a user-friendly, mid-range solution if you want a backup and syncing setup for multiple devices. The service offers plans ranging from 75GB (Home), 250GB (Premium), to 1TB (Ultimate). There are also numerous additional features on offer for extra charges. The service is compatible with multiple computers, and smartphones, both Windows, iOS, and Android, and can backup and sync data across all these.
You have to install a local client software that runs silently in the background. Unlike more advanced services, you don’t get an entirely real-time backup and syncing with ZipCloud. The data is backed up incrementally after scheduled intervals. They do save up to 7 different backup versions of your data for added safety and security.
Though it offers up to 1TB of storage on premium packages, the amount of data that can be synced at any given time is limited. You can collaborate easily with your friends/family/colleagues with ZipCloud though. It is easy to share your files, all you need to do is invite people using email or Facebook/Twitter.
The local and online software interface is easy to understand and use. The 256-bit encryption is comparable to most other cloud storage providers regarding data security and privacy. All in all, ZipCloud lacks some advanced features like real-time syncing, but it is still a capable data storage option if you want to backup your important files.
Software Solution 2: SOS Online Backup
This is a more premium offering that puts an emphasis on providing advanced features and added data security. The service is compatible with both PCs and Macs as well as smartphones. Regardless of your plans, you can use the service for five difference PCs/Macs, as well as an unlimited number of mobile devices.
In 2017, SOS offers two main packages, a Personal/Home plan and a full fledged Business plan. SOS Personal has a minimum storage capacity of 50GB as its cheapest offering. They also offer higher data storage capacities ranging from 100GB all the way up to 10TB. Their rates are higher than average, but they do provide a lot of features.
For instance, there are no limits file sizes, the number of backup versions, or file types. You can restore files that you backed up months or even years ago. A Continuous Backup option is also available, but it is restricted to manually selected files and not the contents of an entire folder, drive, or device. Otherwise, the backup frequency can be set to hourly, daily, weekly or monthly schedules.
Security is better than what you find in most cloud storage offerings. You get the standard 256-bit encryption on stored data as well as all data transfers. Beyond that, you also get the option to set your private encryption key, which means that not even SOS Online Backup employees will be able to access your data. If you are really concerned about privacy and data security, SOS is one of the better options out there, if you can ignore the minor niggles involving real-time backups.
There are options galore in the personal cloud data storage market these days. The main bottlenecks are usually data storage limits. Plans beyond 5TB can be quite expensive, so as of now, cloud storage is best used to store important files that you need to access constantly. Privacy and security are pretty robust across the market, and most companies worth their salt provide full 256-bit encryption to your files.
Though many brands offer free versions of their services with anywhere from 1-15GB of storage, these days that is not adequate even for the average user. Upgrading to a paid service makes eminent sense since, for just a few dollars per month, the storage capacity can be upgraded to 100GBs or more.
You also get useful features like multiple backup versions and real-time backups. With the increasing cache of photos and files that we accumulate these days, maybe now is the time to go beyond free cloud storage services.