Cloud Storage: Growing Number Of FlavorsGiven that about half of American consumers think cloud services can impact the weather, it's clear the appeal of online storage still isn't widely understood. This confusion hasn't stopped the cloud business from exploding, though; even those who don't fully grasp the concept still use clouds for things like browser-based email. Though the definition of cloud in the popular lexicon might be evolving slowly, the demand for cloud services is ever-expanding.
The trends driving this demand will only continue to accelerate. More data is being generated and stored than ever before, and because clouds generally scale more easily than on-site drives, the ascent of online storage shows no sign of stopping. Mobility is also a driver. More and more content is being accessed on tablets and smartphones, and tasks that begin on one device are often picked up on another. Clouds can provide an easy way to access documents from any location and to ensure that updates automatically spread across all of a user's tools.
With clouds providing so much utility, competition within the market has grown fierce. That gives customers many options -- enough options, in fact, to cause confusion.
Thanks to good timing, free entry, and high ease-of-use, Dropbox became one of the first options to break out. With more than 100 million users, it's very popular, but it's certainly not the panacea for all storage needs. In fact, though the service has been attempting to boost its enterprise appeal for some time, businesses have been cautious about security risks. A high-profile hacking incident was a particular setback for the Dropbox brand, and though the company isn't likely to exit the scene, a recent Zenprise survey found that Dropbox's mobile app is among those most frequently blacklisted by IT administrators.
As you consider competing services, it's important to identify which factors are most important to your specific uses. If you work with videos and other big chunks of data, for example, services need to offer high transfer speeds and support for large files. If you need to archive important but seldom-used content, meanwhile, online capacity might be your biggest consideration. Then again, if you're simply looking for productivity boosts, storage capacity might be less important than a simple interface that supports automated functions. BYOD might make platform agnosticism another consideration, and in many environments, IT controls could be a deciding factor. The ability to integrate tools such as Microsoft Outlook or Salesforce might be an additional consideration.
In almost any scenario, cost and security will be concerns -- but even then, there's wiggle room. Entry-level prices might sway some, but a user who anticipates ramped-up activity in the future will likely be more interested in how costs scale over time. While virtually every service offers encryption, some do so only when data is in transit and not while content is idle. Even staple features require deliberation and planning.
The cloud storage equation, in other words, forces users to weigh a variety of factors. Read on to learn about seven cheap cloud storage options that run the gamut of focuses and features.
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