Tag Archives: Dropbox

Comparing 7 Free Cloud Storage and Syncing Services

Overview
There are several options for storing you files on the cloud and syncing them across multiple computers – how do you know which one is best for you?

Below is a summary of seven popular file storage and syncing services. I’ve compared 7 popular storage services against four categories; amount of free storage, ability to sync across multiple computers/devices, ability to sync user defined folders, and if it offers a mobile application through Android or the iPhone.

Services with Most Features
As I have discussed in a previous post, I still believe that SugarSync offers the best value for a cloud-based file storage and syncing service.  They offer several features that I find advantageous over the others, including 5GB of free storage, a mobile application, and a very nice interface for syncing files across multiple device.

I recently starting using Windows Live Mesh and was impressed with Microsoft’s offering.  They offer a full 5 GB of free storage that can be synced across multiple computers.  I found the syncing to be fast and efficient.   Setting up user defined folders was a little bit of hassle, but works well once the set up was complete.

The Market Leaders
I’ve discussed both DropBox and Box.net previously on this site.  Both of these are great options and are market leaders.  DropBox offers slightly less storage with their free version and also does not have the ability to select custom folders, but still is a very popular choice.  Box.net actually integrates a lot of enhanced features, making it more of a Content Management System.  They offer a lot of collaboration features which several of the other services do not offer.

The 2GB Storage Group
ZumoDrive
, Syncplicity, and SpiderOak round out the other services that I reviewed.  Each of these are very similar in functionality, offer 2GB of free storage, and have the ability to sync across multiple computers.  If you are looking for a free service, I like SugarSync over these because of the larger amount of free storage.

Summary
With dozens and dozens of file storage systems on the market today, it can be very difficult to find the service that meets your needs.   If you are looking for a decent amount of storage, with the ability to sync across multiple devices I would recommend trying out some of the services I have discussed here.

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Cloud Storage – 3 Free Options for Web-Based File Hosting

Conducting a quick Google search on “Cloud-based file hosting” provides several results.   For anyone that has been watching the world of computing shift to the “cloud”, one obvious question is which hosting service is best and what do they offer?   I’ve recently compiled some notes on 3 popular cloud-based hosting services, DropBox, Box.net, and SugarSync.

Dropbox
Dropbox is one of the more popular web file hosting services out there today.  It is a really nice product that has some great features.   The first 2GB of storage are free, which is pretty standard for web-based file hosting services.  Dropbox requires that you download a program that is installed on each computer that you plan on using.   Once installed, it is quite easy to use – just place your files and folders in your “Dropbox” folder on your local computer and it is automatically synced to your web account as well as synced across all of your computers.

This is a great system that is easy to use and has a large user base.   My only gripe about it is that you cannot define your own local folders to sync using the free version (at the time of this writing.)   It may have this functionality with the paid version, which I did not try out.

Pros:  Ease of use, Syncing of Files across web and multiple computers, Supports several platforms
Cons:  Only 2 GB of free storage, Inability to specify custom folders on local drive for syncing in free version

Box.net
Like Dropbox, Box.net is also very popular and has garnered much press for its features and interface.  A very nice feature of Box.net is the 5GB of storage available with the free version.   One major downfall of the free version of Box.net is the lack of support for syncing across multiple computers – this is only available with the “Pro” paid version.

Some other nice features included with Box.net include the ability to share and link files on the web to anyone, as well as the ability to edit spreadsheet and word processing files using their embedded web-based software.  Currently they partner with Zoho to allow the editing of spreadsheets and word processing.  Box.net has a very nice interface and the ability to shares and edit files across an organization.  I mainly use my box.net to post files that I wish to shares with others.

Pros:  Ability to edit files using Zoho, File sharing capabilities, 5GB free storage, no download required to use
Cons:  File syncing across computers and the web only allowed in “Pro” version

SugarSync
SugarSync has been my cloud storage platform of choice.  I currently use it back up all of my person data.   It currently includes 5GB of free storage.   It does require a download to all computers that you wish to be synced, but after setting it up, it has worked perfectly.   Whenever I update a file on one computer, it is automatically updated online and on all other synced computers.

Unlike Box.net, it does not have the ability to edit files easily across the web.  They do have something call “websync” that allows a user to download from the web, edit it offline, and then sync back up to the web.  It is a little clunky though.  My thought is that if you are desire to store and edit online, use a web-based office application like Google Docs or Zoho Office. They also have this funny thing called “The Magic Briefcase” – its basically just a stock folder that is created on your local computer where you can sync files easily without having to set up custom folders.

If you are looking for a no frills cloud storage platform that works well and is easy to set up, I would recommend SugarSync.

Pros: Ability to sync user specified files across multiple computers, 5GB of free storage
Cons:  Does not have web-based editing tools, smaller user base than Box.net or Dropbox

In conclusion
This post just scratches the surface of cloud storage.  There are several types and levels of storage available depending upon one’s needs and budget.   The 3 platforms discussed here represent ones that I have had success with.

Focus On: Cloud Computing

The basic premise behind cloud computing is that software applications and data will be stored on large centralized data centers instead of the user’s local machine.  Instead of accessing applications and data from the user’s hard drive, they will be accessed from someplace remotely via the internet.

Cloud computing can be quite a complex idea, and there still is a lot of discussion amongst experts about exactly how to characterize it.  It obtained its name through the metaphor of a shared source of data that anyone can access as a cloud in the sky.

The four components of cloud computing are:

Data: This includes personal files (such as pictures, documents, etc.) as well as any other data that is required to run your applications.  Some companies that currently use this technology are Google, Dropbox, Box.net, and Drop.IO.

Applications: Applications are the software that allow us to achieve the productivity we require from computers – think Microsoft Office.   Google Docs is a great example of a cloud computing application that combines cloud data and applications into one framework.

Hardware: As high-speed internet becomes more available, the way we access the applications and data of the cloud will continue to become easier for everyone. Instead of relying on desktop or laptop computers, we now and will continue to have more access top data via a wide variety of smaller, more flexible computing devices, including  smart phones and netbooks.

High-Speed Internet: Without high-speed internet, cloud computing would not be possible.  Accessing data and applications can only be accomplished through a robust broadband network.  Expect to high-speed availability improve greatly in the next few years.

Cloud computing has become and will continue to be an important concept in computing.  Watch for computing technology to continue to shift towards “the cloud” in coming years.

Image Source: Saperaud under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License