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Online storage reviews

Get your head in the cloud with our review of 12 popular data storage and synchronisation services.
 
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04.Fancy Features

Before you dive into the cloud it's important to look at any extra features and the amount of storage offered by each service.

Feature laden

Unless you want to stick to storing and syncing, a few extra features can enhance your experience in the cloud. Live document editing and third party integration can streamline on-the-go work and sharing particularly with social networking sites. Of course, you may be content with a service that strips things back to the bare essentials without any of the complicated bells and whistles, meaning the lack of features could be a feature in itself.

Dropbox is arguably the best-known sync service. It takes a relatively bare bones with very few functions outside storage and sharing, but even an absolute beginner can start syncing files in next to no time. The trade-off is a lack of versatility. There is only one hot folder for example.

Extra features tend to vary between services but most include a document viewer and file versioning (see jargon buster) while others let you edit files in the cloud and even stream media. Google Drive for example lets you access and edit files via Google web apps. It includes robust Office-style apps that are compatible with many file types.

Just how big are we talking here?

Fancy features are a nice touch but the essence of cloud servers is storage space and with a free account, bigger is usually better. Most services on test start you off with 5-10GB for free which is often enough for storing your most important documents. If you’re thinking of syncing high quality photos, audio and video files you may want to consider a service with more space. MediaFire and Google Drive give you 12 and 15GB respectively just for signing up. You can often earn more free storage space by referring friends to the service or you can buy more space with a monthly/annual subscription.

But before you open up your wallet it’s important to consider the practicalities of buying more storage. Every time your magic folder syncs you’re adding to your monthly upload/download limit which can quickly cap out if you don’t stay vigilant. Although 50GB of cloud storage may sound great, if your ISP limits you to 25GB per month then you’re unlikely to completely utilise the space.

On most days you’re unlikely to be uploading massive files, but on the rare occasion that you need to send a few gigabytes to the cloud, you need to know whether your service puts any restrictions on file sizes. Amazon, Cubby and SkyDrive don’t allow files any larger than 2GB for example, whereas Drive lets you store anything up to 10GB in size.

 

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