Discussing software, hardware, apps, or Web services is difficult as new players, programs, devices, and features appear daily. The target moves so fast it is impossible to hit – what one writes is out-of-date almost immediately. The topic of cloud storage is one example.
So this discussion will be fairly brief, provide links to some recent articles, and focus more on factors to consider while choosing cloud storage services. Factors to consider include cost, security, reliability, integration with other services, and features.
Cost is a no-brainer. Since the audience for this blog are primarily librarians and academics, we will not discuss enterprise cloud storage. So you will want to look at the services that are free or have reasonably-priced tiers for individuals. There are plenty of these to choose from, see some of the comparison articles for examples.
Security is another factor to consider, and the most well-known services are not the most highly rated for this feature. Will your account be vulnerable to hackers? You are better off not putting files in the cloud that must be secure. Some services pay more attention to security than others, including the lyrically-named Spider Oak. Crystal Renfro covered the security issues and related resources well in a previous post.
Is there one information ecosystem you are particularly comfortable working in? Most of them now have their own clouds, including Skydrive for Microsoft, Google Drive, and iCloud for Apple. However, some of the ecosystem-agnostic services such as Dropbox are easy to use as they show up in your list of folders.
For a deeper level of integration, there are Web services such as Hojoki that allow you to work across your personal cloud. Hojoki currently can work across Box, Delicious, Dropbox, Evernote, Github, Google Drive, RSS, Trello, and more. With Hojoki you can keep track of your accounts and activities on the different web services.
Features offered change frequently. What service you choose depends partly on what you are looking for. Using a free cloud storage service makes sense if you want to quickly backup files you use often and want to access from different devices. If you need a lot of storage, for example if you want to backup and access a lot of large multimedia files, you will wind up paying for more gigabytes. In that case, given how cheap storage devices have become, you might want to just buy a terabyte or more portable hard drive that is both accessible and more secure.
Since cloud storage is an ever changing topic, what sources should you follow most? A blog we have recommended before, Ask Bob Rankin, has good coverage of this as well as other technology topics and is written for the layperson rather than the computer professional. At least one friend who is a computer professional has said Rankin knows his stuff. Wikipedia, as usual, has the most comprehensive comparison of online backup services. PCMag and CNET, among others, have daily emails as well as searchable sites one use to useful items. And of course a web search will turn up lots of articles/blog posts on the topic. I often use Duck Duck Go as my search engine of choice. It doesn’t index as many Web pages as Google, but tends to produce more relevant results at the top and clearly labels as such any official sites matching the search. For specific articles please see below.
Have not heard of any providers that specifically focus on features geared towards academic providers in the US, although Knowcations seems to be such a network being developed in South Africa for African and European academics. Many of the research and reference management tools have web storage attached, however, such as OneNote and Skydrive, Mendeley, Zotero, Evernote, and many more.
For Further Exploration and Insight:
1. Do you use cloud storage for backup?
2. If so, comment on which service you chose and why.
3. If you do not have cloud storage, look at some of the comparison articles below. Choose a service to try and comment below on why you chose it.
The Best 10 Cloud Storage. Despite the name, this site reviews 50 or so cloud storage services, allows you to filter by storage amount and price, has tips and reviews, and more.
Comparison of Online Backup Services. Wikapedia article mentioned above.
Best Cloud Storage Services that Protect Your Privacy. July 2013 LifeHacker article.
Five Best Cloud Storage Services. June 30, 2013 LifefHacker article that polled readers on not just free storage, but features such as availability, multi-platform support, security, app integration, and more.