Unless you're heading somewhere without internet access, there's really no point carrying around a USB in your pocket. Cloud-based storage services have taken over, and enable people to access important files from a number of different devices, no matter where they are. It's even possible to share and edit files with multiple users with cloud-based storage, making remote-working or group-work easier than ever before, especially if you're a regular traveller.
What's more, many cloud-based services offer a certain amount of free storage. You'll usually be able to use at least 1GB without having to pay a penny, perfect for those looking to save money, although upgrade options are available if you need more space.
What exactly is the cloud?
The cloud is a network of servers, which allow you to store and access your files over the internet rather than saving them onto your computer's hard drive or an external hard drive, such as a USB.
Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox are some of the most popular cloud services available.
Using the cloud is like renting a storage unit; instead of keeping your belongings at home you will choose to keep them elsewhere. The major benefit of the cloud, compared to physical storage space, is that you can instantly gain access to your stored files whenever you please, from any device, anywhere in the world.
There are loads of cloud-based services to choose from. The most popular three have been already been mentioned, offered to customers from some of the biggest names in tech.
Below, you'll discover some of the main benefits of each service, helping you to choose which the right option for you is.
Let's start with price. Google Drive offers all users with a Google account 15GB for free, with 100GB offered as the next option and priced at £1.59 per month or annually for £15.99.
After this, users can buy 1TB for £7.99/month or £79.99/year, 2TB for £15.99/month with size and prices steadily increasing to 30TB priced at £239.99/month - an option best suited for very large businesses.
Aside from offering the widest range of pricing options, Google Drive provides access to their own office suite, with Google Docs, Sheets and Slides available for free. Collaborative work can easily be achieved by simply inviting other users to edit the file, with each change saved automatically. To gain access, you simply need to make a Gmail account.
Google Drive can easily be accessed on all web browsers, with apps offered for iOS and Android.
Do you use Windows 10? If you do, then you automatically have a OneDrive account - there's no sign up required. 5GB of storage space is available free of charge, with 50GB offered for an additional £1.99/month. For those who want even more space, Microsoft OneDrive's Premium service offers 1TB or 2TB of storage, priced at £5.99/month or £7.99/month respectively.
Both Premium accounts come with Office 365 included, meaning users can use Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote too. Like Google Drive, collaborate work is made simple and each file can quickly edited by multiple users making sharing easier than ever.
OneDrive is fully integrated with Microsoft Office, and pre-installed on all Windows 8 and 10 computers. Mac users can easily access OneDrive via the web too, and iOS devices, Android gadgets and the Windows Phone are supported with apps created for a seamless performance.
Founded in 2007, Dropbox is a cloud-based storage service from the company Dropbox, Inc. You'll get 2GB of storage on Dropbox without having to pay a penny, but if you invite a friend to sign up and they make an account you'll receive an additional 500GB per sign up too. Dropbox offers two additional services as well: Dropbox Plus and Dropbox for Business. With Plus, 1TB of space can be obtained while Business offers 2TB, a file recovery service and even active directory support however a minimum of three users are needed.
With Dropbox users can store files, share files with friends and sync local files. Syncing Dropbox files mean when you edit a document on one device, these changes will be visible on the document no matter what device you use to access it next.
You can use Dropbox on a regular browser or via an app - there's apps to support every kind of device, from major systems like iOS, Windows and Android as well as Blackberry and Amazon's Kindle Fire.
Which service should I use?
This really depends on your own personal needs and preferences. For those planning on using cloud-based storage for personal use only, Google Drive may be the best option. Offering a huge 15GB for free, it's unlikely many will need to pay for a subscription. Dropbox, however, may be the best option for Kindle owners or anyone planing to invite multiple friends to join the service, as a maximum of 16GB can be obtained as bonus storage with 26 sign ups.
OneDrive, however, is a fantastic option for small businesses that already use Microsoft Office. In fact, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive are very similar, and businesses may simply need to decide which platform they prefer using the most.