How to Find the Cloud-Storage Service That's Right for You

NextAdvisor compared cloud-backup and cloud-storage services from eight companies. CIO.com blogger Bill Snyder takes a look at each service and offers tips on how to determine which one is right for you.

Cloud-storage and cloud-backup services are so popular today that it can be difficult to decide which provider is right for you. Do you just want to backup data or do you also want to sync files across different devices? Will you need more storage space than the 5GB or 10GB that are typically offered for free? What about security?

Nextadvisor.com, which bill itself as an “independent research” site for consumers, took a close look at a number of popular cloud providers and came up with a helpful comparison chart that lists eight options. (Four of the eight providers are listed in the chart below.) It's a good idea to keep the following points in mind when considering cloud-service providers:

First, cloud storage and cloud backup aren’t necessarily the same thing. Dropbox, for example, is a good place to store and share a limited amount of data or files with other people and sync some data across devices, but it doesn’t actually perform a backup of your computer. And if you do choose a backup service, you should be prepared to wait a while the first time you send files to the cloud. Depending on the amount of data you upload, and the speed of your Internet connection, it could take several hours or even days to complete the process. And the upload could significantly affect your overall PC performance.

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It’s also important to realize that the small amount of free storage offered by most cloud services probably isn't going to be enough to store all of your digital music, digital photos and other large files. So if you’re going to sign up for a cloud service, look closely at the costs of additional storage. Generally you can pay by the month or by the year. You could, of course, simply buy an external hard drive and just pay once. The downside is that having a backup in your home won’t save your stuff from a fire, flood, theft or other similar types of damage.

On the other hand, the government (hello, NSA) could get its hands on your cloud data by obtaining a court order that leaves providers no choice but to grant access to your files. If government or other snooping concerns you, SpiderOak is worth consideration. SpiderOak encrypts your data, and unlike most of its competitors, the company does not keep any encryption keys. That should mean your data is safe from prying eyes, but if you lose the encryption key, you’re out of luck.

Your cloud provider could also get hit by hackers. It happened to Dropbox last year, but that’s hardly an everyday occurrence. Still, it is a possibility, so you should be sure that any service you choose encrypts your files. (Most of them do.)

SugarSync has a unique security feature: remote wipe. If one of your devices is stolen, you can use the SugarSync mobile app to wipe all the related data on the missing device.

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