Have no fear though, we at the UW IT Help Desk are here to clear some things up on cloud storage and tell you all about what’s available.
Google Drive, the newest cloud storage option, gives users 5 GBs of storage for starters. The system is built to work in conjunction with Google Docs, Google’s document editing program that’s also hooked into every Android phone and tablet. Google has tossed in some neat functionality that doesn’t exist on any of the other services yet. For instance, Google Drive includes an option to turn on Optical Character Recognition text scanning, which means that when you upload images to your Google Drive, Google will scan the images for text and make them searchable.
Look for more functionality to come out on the Google Drive software and keep your eyes posted for our review of the Google Drive platform on its own later on.
iCloud is Apple’s offering and also gives 5 GBs of storage to work with. While it works on both PCs and Macs, its biggest functionality comes from its use on the Apple iOS system. The iCloud keeps backups of your iPhone and iPad and stores it in the cloud so that the data is safe if you ever have to reset your phone. It also automatically backs up your photos that you might take on your device, which is nice as you never have to worry about losing a photo again. Additionally, you get access to the Find My iPhone app which allows you to find your phone if you ever lose it from another phone or via the web.
The service is best for folks who have an iPhone or iPad and use a Mac, as this integration doesn’t require much work on the user’s end and it just works.
SkyDrive offers 7 GBs to new users, although old users had previously had access to 25 GBs of storage. SkyDrive provides the most storage to any customer of the services at the free level. SkyDrive has some neat features that can’t quite be found with any of the other solutions. One of these neat features is the ability to have notes synchronized that are done with the OneNote program. You can also save directly to the cloud from many Microsoft Office programs. While the integration still lacks in its seamlessness, there is speculation that in the next release of Microsoft Office, the SkyDrive functionality will be baked in right from the start and will store all of your documents in the cloud and on your computer. Right now though, if you don’t have access to a computer, you can use Microsoft’s online document editor which works just as well as its desktop counterpart does and again, it’s totally free.
If you have a Windows Phone, you also gain some of the functionality that Apple users get with the iCloud functionality. Photos taken on these phones also get uploaded right into the cloud so you never have to worry about a lost photo again. The service doesn’t quite back your phone up in to the cloud yet, but it’s believed to be a feature that’s in the works.
Dropbox is a service that many of us at the Help Desk have written about and that many of us adore. Dropbox only provides 2 GB to its customers initially, but it gives you the opportunity to expand your space via referrals. This referral system enables many to get the space on their account up to a more respectable 6 or 7 GBs. With that said, Dropbox was one of the first players to the scene and has set the bar for everyone else to touch. Dropbox includes an easy to use web interface, but also the best seamless uploading system available. You simply install the program on your computer and it’ll download everything from your Dropbox into that folder. As you delete and save things, it’ll distribute that throughout all of the devices you may have hooked in. This is especially useful if you have several computers as the synchronized functionality is instant, so if you upload a file to your Dropbox in Coe, by the time you get home, it’ll already be saved on to your computer.
Regardless of what you decide to use, it’s comforting to know there are ways to back up your important documents and photos. While nothing is infallible, it helps to know you’re keeping yourself protected at every turn so that if you ever have a data loss, you don’t have to worry about rewriting that paper!