4 Free Ways to Store Your Data in the Cloud

rsz_computerwithphone by Tim Parker on January 4, 2013
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If your small business isn’t in the cloud, it probably should be. The cloud not only protects your data against unexpected computer failures and stolen devices, but also allows you to access the information anywhere, from any computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Even better, various free services can meet the needs of your small business at no cost to you. In some cases, you’ll get way more than what you (don’t) pay for. Here are four free ways to store your data in the cloud:

1. Dropbox — Dropbox stores up to 2GB of data for free (and up to 18GB if you make referrals) before you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan. If you share folders with your employees, you receive extra storage space when they sign up. You can access the service just as you would any other file folder on your desktop, or you can use the free smartphone app to get to your files.

2. iCloud If you own a PC and feel left out in the “iCold,” don’t: Although it doesn’t work as seamlessly with Windows as it does with the Mac platform, you can set up your PC to be part of iCloud. The service offers 5GB for free with the option to purchase an additional 10GB for $20 per year or up to an additional 50GB for $100 per year. When you purchase books, music, apps, or TV shows through iTunes, or you upload photos, it doesn’t count toward your storage space in iCloud.

Because iCloud is made to integrate with your devices, there is no smartphone app. For users of Apple products, iCloud is perfect. For those outside the Apple ecosystem, consider one of the other cloud services.

3. Box — Box offers 5GB of free space, after which you’ll have to upgrade to a paid plan. What’s unique about Box are its free collaboration tools: If you are working on a team project, team members can leave comments, receive notifications when a file is changed, and even digitally sign documents. Box offers additional features for larger businesses as part of its paid plans. It also has a free mobile app.

4. Amazon Cloud Drive — Like Box, Amazon Cloud Drive offers 5GB of free space. You can store any type of media here, including documents, photos, music, and videos. An extra 20GB costs $10 per year — a great price compared with other platforms. Up to an additional 1,000GB of space can be purchased for $500 per year. It even integrates with the Kindle. You can access your drive online or install the free desktop app to reach files.

Why offer so much for free? At some point, your data is likely to outgrow the storage space that’s offered gratis. After that, the companies are hopeful that you’ll upgrade to one of their monthly plans rather than scatter your data across various platforms.

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Tim Parker is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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