Who needs cloud computing?

<i>This post has been corrected, as indicated below.</i>

With all of the chatter around Google Drive and the like, you may be wondering whether you should have a cloud drive somewhere.

Some people live blissful digitally disconnected lives -- free of smartphones, free of Facebook, devoid of a digital photo album with snapshots of everything from their baby to their breakfast, no tangle of charging cables, no bytes of data to transfer or tap.

But if you’re sending yourself emails just to get a PDF or photo from one device to another, you might need a cloud drive somewhere.


If you’ve ever been out living your life and thought, “I really could use that file off my computer at home,” there’s a cloud with your name on it.

The question is where. And that depends on what you need. Most services are basically storage lockers for your stuff -- documents, photos, videos. But some offer smarter features as well.

Right now, a number of services are giving users free space, from about 2 gigabytes up to 7 gigabytes. You could go around and just collect free space, or study aspects such as the features, the terms of service and privacy policies, or the service’s reliability before committing.

Here’s a quick look at some of what’s out there.

Microsoft SkyDrive -- This one gives you 7 gigabytes of free storage. There are apps for Mac and PC, plus apps for Windows Phone, iOS and through the OneNote app for Android, according to the site.

Google Drive -- You get 5 GB free, upgradable to a terabyte for $49.99 a month. In addition to allowing you to access your digital content, the service, unlike the others, also allows users to collaboratively create and edit documents or video, and facilitates sharing. There’s an Android app available now, with an iOS app in the works, the company said.

Something to note: The company, which also makes a good chunk of its money through wrapping some of your content in related ads, told me that it has no plans to do that with your content in Google Drive.


Amazon CloudDrive -- If you have or create an Amazon account, you get 5 GB for free. Your account is upgradable to one terabyte for $1,000 a year. The service lets you connect as many as eight devices, which can include mobile devices, different computers, and different browsers on the same computer. Any digital music you buy from Amazon is stored in that virtual locker but doesn’t count against your quota.

SugarSync -- Here, you get 5 GB free. Some difference are that you can email files into your SugarSync storage and share folders with passwords or permissions, and you can send files of any size. The service also keeps the previous five versions of all your documents (and photos) for either your reference or recovery. But only the most recent version counts toward the storage limit. It has apps for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Symbian and Kindle Fire, as well as an Outlook plugin.

Dropbox -- This service gives you 2 GB to start, with the ability to boost your storage by “earning” up to 16 additional GB for referring others to the service. With the free account you can earn up to 16 GB of additional space for referring friends, or upgrade to a Pro account with up to 100 GB and 32 GB for referrals starts at $10 a month. Dropbox also keeps a snapshot of every change you make over the last 30 days without affecting your storage limit. You can share specific files or entire folders with friends, colleagues or family. On the mobile front, it has apps for iOS, Android and BlackBerry.

Again, with any of these services, it’s important to read and understand what the shared responsibilities and commitments are in the legal contracts you’re accepting by hitting “agree.”

For the record, 12:34 p.m. April 27: An earlier version of this post stated that Pro Dropbox account holders can earn up to 16 gigabytes of additional storage. That upgrade is available to holders of free accounts. Pro account holders can earn up to 32 GB of extra storage.



Who owns your stuff in the Google Drive cloud?Future of computing: Tablet, cloud will be king, report says

Google Drive: Watch out, cloud computing in U.S. like ‘Wild West’

Follow Michelle Maltais on Google+, Facebook or Twitter