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What is Cloud Storage? – A Complete Beginners Guide



It seems everyone is talking about ‘the Cloud’ – but what is cloud storage?
It may sound like something a meteorologist would use, but it actually describes an off-site data storage solution. Instead of storing data on your own computer’s hard drive, your data is uploaded over the internet to a company’s remote database. Storing your data in a cloud service has several advantages over local data storage.

Why use cloud-based storage?

First, there’s accessibility. With local storage you need to be connected to your own computer, while a cloud storage solution lets you retrieve your data from anywhere with internet access. Many cloud solutions also allow you to share your data with others if you choose, so you can send your vacation photos to your family without cluttering up their email inboxes, or collaborate on a project with friends from anywhere in the world.

Cloud-based solutions also help minimize the time and effort it takes to back up your files. Creating a local backup solution often means expensive hardware and complicated setups. Using a cloud-based solution means that the company maintaining the servers handles all of the hardware requirements, so you can relax knowing that your information will still be there.

Finally, there’s flexibility. Sure, you may only need to store a few hundred files right now, but what about a year from now? Two years? A cloud-based data storage solution will allow you to increase or decrease the amount of storage you’re using whenever your needs change. You won’t have to purchase a lot of space just in case you need it in the future – just buy what you need, and upgrade when needed.

How does it work?

Behind the scenes, your cloud-based storage provider uses a virtual storage architecture. Instead of connecting directly to a hard drive as you do when storing files on your local computer, you connect to the software instead. Behind the scenes, the software coordinates a group of servers, bringing hardware online or offline as demand fluctuates, and balancing the workload between all available servers.

Why are there so many different cloud-based storage solutions? Since there’s no single protocol defining how cloud computing should work, many large companies have developed their own systems.

Cloud storage comparison

If you’d like to give it a try, there are several companies offering free cloud storage solutions. To help you pick the best cloud storage option for you, here’s a run-down on five of the most popular services that will let you get started for free.

1. Amazon Cloud Storage

Service Name: Amazon Cloud Drive
Best for: File backups and photo organization
Special features:
1. Advanced photo organization with a timeline makes it great for folks with a lot of pictures.
2.  Unlimited storage option is very cost-effective for backing up large files, or for consolidating information from multiple devices
Storage: Unlimited photo storage and 5GB storage for other file types available free for Prime users. Unlimited storage for all file types available for a yearly subscription.
Available for: Mac, PC, iOS, Android. Built-in to Fire TV, Fire Phone, and Fire Tablet devices.

2. Apple Cloud Storage

Service Name: iCloud
Best for: Providing a back-up service for Apple devices, sharing content
Special features:
1. Allows up to 6 users to share purchases made from Apple marketplaces, including iTunes, iBooks, and Apple App Store
2.  Syncs your music collections, calendars, photos, and more across all devices
Storage: 5GB available free, larger plans up to 1TB available for purchase
Available for: iOS devices, Mac, and PC.

3. Microsoft Cloud Storage

Service Name: OneDrive
Best for: Backups, file storage, and collaboration
Special features:
1.  Allows users to collaborate using Office products, such as Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.
2.  May not perform as well as some cloud solutions. Some users report slow upload times.
Storage: 15GB available for free, up to 50GB storage for a storage-only plan. Up to 1TB storage available with an Office 365 subscription.
Available for: PC, Windows phones, Mac, Android, and iOS devices. Comes pre-installed in Windows 10.

4. Google Cloud Storage

Service Name: Google Drive
Best for: File backups and sharing
Special features:
1. Allows users to easily share files and collaborate with others
2. Can customize which files are shared with other users
3. Powerful Google search lets you easily find the file you want
Storage: 15GB free, up to 1TB with subscription
Available for: Mac, PC, Android, iOS devices. Built in to Chromebooks.

5. Verizon Cloud Storage

Service Name: Verizon Cloud
Best for: Backing up your mobile device, synching content between devices
Special features:
1.  Can sync your phone’s content between phones, tablets, and computer.
2. Back up phone contacts in case your phone is lost, stolen, or damaged
Storage: 5GB available free, larger plans up to 1TB available for purchase
Available for: Verizon Wireless customers only



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