As technology continues to advance, more aspects of our lives are recorded, and tracked, digitally. Whether it’s a birth, marriage, graduation, or other special event, most of us have photos, videos and other digital images that we would not want to lose. The same can be said for documents records that used to be created on paper. From our tax returns to birth certificates, inventory lists, awards and even journals, most of us have digital copies of our most significant records that we want to be able to preserve.
All Data is Subject to the Risk of Loss
While you might believe that your digital records are safe stored on the hard drive of your computer or other device, the truth is that even the most trusted brands, and well-made hard drives, can develop flaws and have other defects that lead to mechanical failure. Anti-virus software is only as good as the latest upgrade or patch, and hackers are continually working on creating new malware and other programming to defeat any precautions that you take.
Even if you are never hacked, and never experience failure of your hard drive or have another mechanical issue, unexpected disasters, such as fire and flood, can occur and make it difficult, if not impossible, to recover your data from your device.
External Storage Devices vs. Offsite Cloud Storage
Backing up your data to an external hard drive is a good choice if you have a lot of mp3 and other audio files that you need to save, as uploading this type of data to the cloud can be very time consuming. When choosing an external hard drive, you will want to get one that has at least as much storage as your computer’s actual hard drive, to ensure that it’s large enough to hold all your data. You can save data to more than one drive, but, it may be costlier, and time consuming in the long run.
External hard drives are also subject to the same types of failures that can happen to your actual devices. There are now several data storage companies that offer consumers free, or low-cost storage solutions, completely offsite and in the cloud.
Cloud storage offers a high level of security to protect your data from theft and loss. It also makes it easy to recover your data and download it to your existing devices, or their replacements, should you need to do so.
The following tips can make it easier to pick the right data storage company for your needs.
Before You Buy, Check to See if You Already Have Cloud Storage
A surprising number of consumers are completely unaware that they already have a certain free amount of cloud storage available to them. Before you subscribe to a plan with a data storage company, check to see if you already subscribe to other services that offer free cloud storage.
Are You an Existing Office 365 Subscriber?
For example, Microsoft offers anyone 5GB of free cloud storage if they simply sign up for it. Up to 50GB is available for a low, monthly fee of $1.99. if you have a paid Office 365 Personal subscription with Premium OneDrive features, up to 1000GB/1T of cloud storage comes with your plan.
Office 365 Home with Premium OneDrive features comes with 1000GB/1T of cloud storage each for up to 5 users, and costs just $99.99 a year, or $9.99 a month. If you are already an Office 365 subscriber, then you already have a full terabyte of cloud storage available to you at no additional charge!
It should be noted that Microsoft does offer unlimited cloud storage, without Office 365, for commercial customers via their One Drive for Business Plan 2. It also comes with advanced security options and encryption for an extra level of protection for your data. It’s $120 per year, per user, and seems like one of the lowest prices for unlimited storage in the cloud, should you need that level of storage and security.
Are You a Fan of Google Apps Like Google Docs?
Google Drive offers user 15G of free cloud storage when they sign up. It allows you to save any of your data, from your favorite photos and music to files you create with various Google Apps such as Google Docs. This particular drive is great for collaborating with others, because you can create your shared documents directly in the cloud, and allow multiple users to view them and make edits easily.
Data that is saved in Google Drive can be accessed from any computer, tablet or smartphone, so it’s easy to retrieve your files and other data wherever you go. A 100G of cloud storage is available for $1.99 a month, and 1000G/1T is available for just $9.99 a month/$99.99 a year.
A cool feature of Google Drive is that data you create with Google Slides, Sheets or Docs does not count towards your storage limit. Your storage is shared across Gmail, Google Photos and Google Drive, so any attachments that you send or receive by email will count towards your storage limit.
Collaborate with Others Often? DropBox Might be a Good Choice
The Basic version of DropBox comes with 2GB free, and, you can receive additional free storage when you recommend it to others and they subscribe using the referral link that you send them. Basic also allows you to access your storage from anywhere, with any device. Plus offers 1,000GB/1T of storage for $8.25 a month Both plans allow users to share files and folders with others, making collaboration easy.
DropBox Pro is $16.58 a month, offers the same storage as Plus, and allows users to sync their files and folders directly with their device, along with providing shared linked controls and viewer history.
Regardless of which user creates the data, all the data in shared folders counts towards the storage data limits, so you will want to have everyone collaborating on a file or folder to periodically review and delete unnecessary data.
Apple Fan? Then Apple iCloud is a Must!
Many Apple Apps are optimized for use with Apple iCloud, so it really is the best choice if you are already using their devices such as the iPhone or iPad. iCloud automatically syncs your photos and other data from your devices and apps, making it incredibly easy to move all of your photos, contact lists and other data when you upgrade to the next iPhone, or, get another new Apple device.
Like many other cloud storage companies, the first 5GB are free, 50GB is 99 cents a month, 200GB is $2.99 monthly and up to 2 terabytes of storage is $9.99 a month. The best part is that the larger storage plans can be shared with family and friends.
Which Data Storage Company is Best for You?
For most users, the best cloud storage option for you will depend on whether you are already receiving free, or discounted storage because you subscribe to another service. If you don’t have a specific platform that you regularly use to create the data you want and need to store, then DropBox makes it easy to share and collaborate with others and is slightly cheaper per month than some of the other providers.