Published April 28, 2012
What does it even mean when people talk about storing things in the cloud? It sounds so…nebulous. Pun intended. But don't worry, I'm going to break it down for you.
When people talk about "cloud storage," they are talking about putting documents, pictures, and videos online so that they can be stored and accessed whenever you have an online connection. You need this.
Anyone who has ever lost files due to a computer crash will vouch for this. Storage to a hard-drive or physical device is important but you want to back up to the cloud too. And now we have options.
Google and Microsoft both rolled out their own cloud-based storage lockers this week, Google Drive, and Microsoft's SkyDrive. They're both competing with the gold standard of cloud storage, Dropbox.
Let me breakdown the differences.
Dropbox has long been my go-to service and they have really defined the category. It is a simple Web site that lets you upload your documents from any computer or mobile device and access them wherever you can get online. The first 2GB of space is free and for most folks that's plenty. The service integrates flawlessly with Mac and Windows and works seamlessly on your mobile phone too.
Here's a real world example of how I use Dropbox: Mom wants those 50 vacation photos I shot. I upload them to a Dropbox in a folder I call "Vacation Photos". I share the folder with my mom's email and she opens the folder on her computer 900 miles away. It's magic.
Google Drive is similar. It shows a folder on your desktop just like Dropbox but it's integrated with your entire Google experience. You get 5GB of storage for free, which is a pretty good deal, and when you log into Google Documents you'll notice that all your documents, photos, and attachments have become a part of Google Drive.
If you're a heavy Google user than there's no reason you wouldn't want to use Drive plus it's a great supplement to Dropbox. I personally back up all my photos to Google so now it's an easier experience for me.
If you're a dedicated Windows user and you can't live without Office then look no further than Microsoft's SkyDrive. You get more free storage than Google or Dropbox with a nice 7GB and the cost for an upgrade is cheaper too. SkyDrive integrates perfectly with all of your Office documents, spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations whether you're at your desktop or on the go.
No more emailing yourself the latest version of your PowerPoint presentation. What a pain! Now you can just save the version you're working on in one place and call it up in another when you're ready to work on it again.
Using each service is a matter of personal preference so pick the one that works for you. Just don't wait for a fire or flood before you start backing up your personal goodies to the cloud. Far too many people learn this lesson the hard way.