Keep it in the cloudCLAIRE ROGERS
The services - also called "cloud storage services" - mean you no longer have to worry about your smartphone or tablet computer running out of storage, or losing all your precious files should anything happen to your device.
Free storage plans offering between 2GB and 7GB of data should be enough for most users, but you can pay for extra storage.
Most services let you store any kind of file online, but put limits on the size of files you can upload. For example, you may have 2GB of free storage but only be able to upload files that are 500 megabytes or less in size.
Online storage services are also a great way to share your files with others, with many letting you send links to files or set up shared folders that others can access.
Before you bundle all those important documents and photos off into cyber space, check that the service has password-protection, a good security record and offers data encryption.
Online storage services have different policies about how and for what purpose they can access your files - for example for advertising purposes - so read up on those before you make a choice.
2GB for free, 100GB for US$10 a month or $100 a year, 200GB for $20 a month or $200 a year, 500GB for $50 a month or $500 a year.
Available online, on Windows and Mac computers, Android, BlackBerry and Apple's iOS devices such as the iPad and iPhone.
Probably the most popular online storage service, Dropbox lets you simply drag and drop files into a folder to store them on the web. It will also increase your free storage by 500 megabytes (up to 18GB) for every new customer you refer.
7GB for free, extra 20GB for US$10 a year, 50GB for $25 a year, 100GB for $50 a year.
Available for Windows and Mac PCs, and free apps for iPhone, iPad and Windows Phone. Can also be accessed on other phones and tablets through web browser.
Microsoft's online storage service Skydrive has some of the cheapest plans, and lets users remotely access files they have forgotten to upload to SkyDrive. You can also edit and create Microsoft documents through Skydrive. Maximum file upload is 2GB.
5GB for free, extra 25GB for US$2.50 a month, 100GB for $5 a month, 200GB for $10 a month, 400GB for $20 a month.
Available for Windows and Mac PCs, with apps for Android phones. Also available for iPad and iPhone through the browser.
An obvious choice for Google account holders, Google's Drive service lets users create Google Docs, access all files stored in Google Apps, send links to files through their Gmail account and access stored files such as photos through their Google+ account. Google can trawl your files stored in Drive so it can target advertising at you based on the content of those files. Maximum file upload is 10GB.
5GB for free, extra 10GB for NZ$25 a year, 20GB for $50 a year and 50GB for $125 a year.
For Mac computers and iOS devices such as iPhone and iPad.
Apple's storage service is largely automatic, backing up your content (except TV shows and movies) without prompting. Sharing options are relatively limited unfortunately, iCloud is more of a backup service for your content than a way to share files.
5GB for free, 30GB for US$5 a month or $50 a year, 60GB for $10 a month or $100 a year, 100GB for $15 a month or $150 a year.
For Windows and Mac PCs, and apps available for iPad and iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Mobile devices.
Sugarsync is also popular but one of the more expensive online storage services available. Users can edit files offline and automatically sync those updates when they come back online. Sugarsync does not have a file size limit for uploads.
2GB for free, 100GB for US$10 a month or $100 a year, and pay an extra $10 a month or $100 a year for every 100GB increment thereafter.
Available for Windows, Mac and Linux computers, apps available for iPad and iPhone, and Android smartphones.
Spideroak has the tightest privacy controls - it claims to have "zero-knowledge" of the content of your files - and doesn't limit the size of files you upload. You have to download an application to your computer to use it, and mobile apps don't currently let you back up data to Spideroak from your phone.
5GB for free, 25GB for US$10 a month, 50GB for $20 a month.
Available for Windows and Mac computers, apps available for iPhone and iPad, Android and Windows Mobile devices.
Box is one of the more expensive services, but will appeal to "power" and business users. Its business plan gives 1000GB of storage for up to 500 users for $15 per user per month. File upload limits for the consumer plans range from 100MB for those on the free plans to 1GB for those on the 50GB allowance.
Sources: Spideroak, Box, Sugarsync, Apple, Google, Dropbox, The Verge, Laptop Mag, Ars Technica, The Telegraph, The Guardian.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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