Cloud Storage FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions about Cloud Storage
- Why do I need a cloud storage service?
- What does it mean when files are stored "in the cloud"?
- What is the difference between online backup and cloud storage?
- Is cloud storage secure?
- How much storage space do I need for my files?
- Do I need to purchase any special hardware or equipment to use these services?
- How do I restore my files using cloud storage?
- What does it mean to "sync" a file?
- Can I backup multiple computers with one subscription?
- Can I backup or sync my music and photos with cloud storage?
- How did NextAdvisor review these cloud storage services?
Search our site for more information about Cloud Storage:
With a cloud storage service, you can be sure that you never lose important files such as work documents, family photos, your favorite music and anything else you care about on your computer. Like with online backup, if your hard drive crashes, your computer is stolen, you accidentally erase important information from your computer or you otherwise lose access to important files, cloud storage services give you the ability to quickly restore any lost information.
Cloud storage is especially useful for people who work on many different devices. These services sync your files across all of your computers, or even phone, to make sure that you have the most up-to-date information and version of the file available no matter where you are. You can even collaborate on files and share them with others, with each person able to see changes in real-time!
This means that your files are stored in a secure location on the Internet (in addition to your hard drive) and you can access them at anytime, anywhere with an Internet connection. They are still physically stored somewhere (probably a server farm), but only you can access them with your password online.
Online Backup and Cloud Storage services are very similar in that they both backup your computer files in the event of a system crash or some other kind of data loss. Both store your files online, allowing you to access them anywhere with an Internet connection. However, the main factor that differentiates cloud storage from simple online backup is the ability of cloud storage services to sync specific files across all of your devices. While only some online backup services boast this valuable feature, all of the cloud storage services we review (other than Dropbox) include backup in addition to file syncing in their repertoire. Syncing is especially useful for people who find themselves working on multiple devices and need their files to be as up-to-date as possible no matter where they are.
Yes. Cloud storage services utilize the same security measures that financial institutions use to protect sensitive data. This means that the data you store with a cloud service is as secure as your bank account or credit card account information. They encrypt your passwords with special technology and some services like Spideroak, for example, do not even have access to your password (making it even more important for you to remember it!)
That depends on what type of files you would like to backup and/or sync. Most of these cloud storage services allow you to backup your entire computer and allow an unlimited amount of storage. However, the amount of sync space - which measures how much file storage you can use to sync across multiple devices - varies from service to service. Check out the cloud storage comparison chart for the details on each service.
No. Cloud storage services use the Internet to securely backup and sync your files and don't require you to purchase any additional equipment.
The process of restoring lost files differs depending on the service provider. In most cases, it is as simple as accessing your online account and downloading the files you have backed up. If you want to access a single file that you have backed up and/or synced, it's very fast and easy to do via the service's web interface.
The amount of time it takes to download your backed-up files varies based on the amount of data you have stored with your cloud storage service. It can take anywhere from a few hours if you have a small number of files backed up to several days if you have many large files to recover.
Syncing files is what really makes cloud storage unique from online backup. When you select a file to be synced, it ensures that no matter what changes you make to that file, it will be updated on all of the computers/devices that have that particular cloud storage service installed and that have this same file.
Some cloud storage services have specific "sync folders" that are installed on each of your computers and where you can maintain the files you sync. Other services let you sync existing folders together on your hard drive. To read about each cloud storage service and its syncing capabilities, read the reviews here.
Subscriptions that offer unlimited space are limited to a single computer license, since otherwise they would be opening themselves up to huge dumps of data. Conversely, subscriptions that have specific space limitations usually allow you to backup multiple computers; they don't care how many computers fill up a set amount of space. So there are advantages to having a storage cap, just as there are advantages to unlimited storage. This is definitely a good thing to keep in mind as you select an cloud storage provider.
Yes! You can definitely backup your music files and photos. Some of the services even allow you to stream the music you stored from one computer on a different computer or your mobile phone. However, note that some of the services do not let you sync application files like iTunes and iPhoto because of the format. SugarSync, for example, does not allow you to sync your iPhoto or iTunes files but it does let you store them in your "web archive" so you can access them on the Internet anytime!
We signed up for each cloud storage service and tested them ourselves. We ran online backup routines, synced files across multiple computers which included Macs as well as PCs, edited files to test update times, accessed files over each service's web interface, and tried out mobile apps where applicable. We were also curious about how enjoyable, intuitive and easy-to-use each program was. The ratings you see here are a compilation of these factors plus how many computers/devices you can sync, how much sync space you get and how great of a value the service is overall.
We only include cloud storage services that we believe offer a good value proposition. If you think we are missing a quality cloud storage provider or have any other suggestions or comments, please visit our contact page.
Disclosure: NextAdvisor.com is a consumer information site that offers free, independent reviews and ratings of online services. We receive advertising revenue from most of the services we review. Our editors thoroughly research and whenever possible test each service we review and offer their honest opinions about each one. We are independently owned and operated and all opinions expressed on this site are our own.