Cloud Storage Made Simple: How to Integrate it with Your Workflow

The best ways to sync your files, max your storage, and access your data from any device, anywhere.

By Anthony Domanico
Tue, February 18, 2014

PC World — Thanks to cloud storage, files are bursting from the confines of your PC's hard drive. Now, you can get work done on a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or even portable mini-PCs and dongles. Still, many users still haven't fully worked the cloud into the way they go about their daily business. Here's how to seamlessly integrate the cloud into your workflow, starting with the most crucial part: Choosing a service that plays nice with your PC.

All the clouds in the sky

Cloud storage services are plentiful, with dozens of potential solutions to choose from and new programs coming to market every day. Of these, a handful of standouts are well worth considering as you look to make cloud storage as easy as using your hard drive.

The best solutions for our needs today are those that deeply integrate with the Windows File Explorer so you can open and save files as you would locally. Microsoft SkyDrive (soon to be OneDrive), Google Drive, Dropbox and MediaFire all offer Windows File Explorer integration, which means they store your files in local folders that function seamlessly on your hard drive, but automatically synchronize with the cloud.

Benefits and drawbacks abound with each of these services. SkyDrive and Google Drive both offer web-based productivity tools and are therefore great for document management, but SkyDrive has a 2GB file limit (vs. Google's 10GB limit) so it's not so good at storing media files. Dropbox has an unlimited file size limit, but it has the most meager amount of free storage. MediaFire has the most free storage (10 to 50GB can be had for free), but the 200MB maximum file size relegates it to small files only. You can sign up for the free tiers of each of those services (and others) and play to their individual strengths to create a great big no-cost hard drive in the sky.A

SkyDrive is likely the best solution for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 users, as it comes baked into the operating system itself. SkyDrive can carry your system settings, passwords, Internet Explorer tabs, and even your basic desktop and Start screen setup with you from device to device. Now that's seamless.

The setup

One you've selected one (or more) cloud storage platforms, you'll want to download that service's companion application to your PC. The desktop program places an icon in your Windows taskbar for basic management. More importantly, it puts a folder in your Favorites section in Windows File Explorer, so you can quickly open and save files from the cloud. This step is unnecessary for SkyDrive users on Windows 8.1, of course.

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