What Cloud storage solution I use

Okay I get asked this question a lot, “What is the best cloud storage/backup service?”.  This is an open ended question.  It really depends on your needs.  I think I have an account with most of the popular cloud services.  So I will just write what I think/use.

The two questions that need to be answered are; what do you need and how much are you going to store?  A lot of people think all cloud storage is the same, but to me there I would consider there are two types.  Cloud storage (Dropbox, box, SkyDrive, Google drive, etc) and then there is cloud backup (CrashPlan, Carbonite, SugarSync, Backblaze, Mozy).The first question “What do you need”, I mean do you want to access your information from everywhere.  Do you want to share your photos, documents, music, and video with friends/family/coworkers/etc?  Or do you want to backup everything and only access the data when you need it (hard drive crash, natural disaster, house burned down, computer stolen, etc).  The second question “How much data do you need to store?”.  This plays a role in your decisions too, since there are factors to consider (cost, time to upload data, etc).

The first type of cloud storage is for “active” files. If you want to store/synchronized data and have the flexibility to access/share your information with people, then I recommend Dropbox. I actually pay for the 100GB plan, which cost $99 a year.  Even the free version gives you a decent amount of space, 2GB to start off with and you can potentially add up to 16GB if you spend the time to do their little games/task.  There are many reasons why I love Dropbox.  Even though there are similar products/solutions, I think Dropbox does everything better.

  1. Dropbox syncs selected folders from computer to computer.  So I have a folder on my work computer that I save some of my project files/work files on.  When I get home the files are on my home computer, same with my laptop.  Also Dropbox allows me to sync other things like my browser bookmarks, passwords, etc.
  2. File Sharing – Since one of my hobbies is photography I typically share a lot of images with people/groups of people.  You can give people access to whatever you want.  Also you have the ability to password lock shared folders. I also tend to share video, documents, books, etc.  It just makes life easier.
  3. Access – I can access Dropbox from any computer, tablet, and mobile device.  There have been a few instances where I needed to pull up a document to look up information or send it to someone.  So if I am not near a computer, I can pull out my iPhone, use the Dropbox app and open up my document.
  4. Retrieval – Sometimes I delete a document that I wish I hadn’t. But Dropbox does have a undo button that lets me recover a deleted document within 30 day.
  5. Storage backup – I keep everything from software installations, tools, documents, magazines/books, you name it.
  6. Ease of use – Dropbox is easy to use.  With the desktop client, I just tell Dropbox what I want on the cloud and it backs it up.  For mobile devices (iPhone/iPad/android), the dedicated apps are useful.  Also I can access the data from any browser.

While Dropbox is my go to cloud solution for storage, I also use Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive and Box.net.  They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

The next type of cloud storage is a cloud backup solution. This solution will give you an “off site” backup solution (which I highly recommend having). This is more like having a safety deposit lock box at a bank for keeping copies of your important documents. The whole purpose of the safety deposit box is secured storage someplace other than your house. This is insurance against theft and disaster (fire/flood/earthquake).  These are backup services only, for backing up a personal computer to the cloud. Their benefit is that once you set them up, you don’t need to worry about the hard drive on your PC crashing. The downside is they are not designed for data to be easily accessible across mobile devices or to be shared with others. I have used a few different ones in the past, namely CrashPlan, Carbonite, SugarSync and Mozy.  I ended up with CrashPlan.  CrashPlan+ is my favorite online backup service because of the excellent software, cost effective plans, ease of use and best feature set. CrashPlan’s interface is excellent and the features abound including a web-based restore option, continuous backup, an unprecedented 448-bit encryption level (better than your bank), and the foundation of a proven and excellent backup software program.

I also use Amazon Glacier.  This is my cold storage cloud solution for my large data files (namely RAW files).  At .01 a GB per month is really hard to beat.  Amazon Glacier is an extremely low-cost storage service that provides secure and durable storage for data archiving and backup. In order to keep costs low, Amazon Glacier is optimized for data that is infrequently accessed.

What I do at home for long term backup
Since there is no one solution, I usually do a combination of things. For backing up data, photos, videos, etc I have Synology NAS at my house.  This NAS is simply the best.  It is loaded with features such as backing up data from all my computers at the house, it allows me to create a mini cloud service (similar to Dropbox), I can create online galleries, use it as a surveillance server, email server, media server (stream video/music to all my devices), print server, iTunes server, etc).  As I mention, I backup the data from all my computers at the house to my NAS.  Then my NAS will back most of this data up to CrashPlan.   I also have my Synology NAS upload certain folders to Amazon Glacier (RAW files, photos, family videos).  So I actually have two places where my data gets backed up (CrashPlan and Amazon Glacier).  Now keep in mind, this really depends on how much data you are backing up.  Uploading a lot of data to the cloud will take a long time.  Most upload speeds are usually around 2-5mb upload…  So if you have 100GB of data, it will take a while… So I usually schedule data uploading at night when nobody is using any bandwidth.  So at home, my information is backed up to my NAS, CrashPlan and Amazon Glacier.

So everyone’s backup needs are different and sometimes changing.  So while this has work great for me for the last year, who knows what I will be using next year or the year after.

If you want to try CrashPlan for your cloud backup solutions, here is a link for 1 free year (any email address will work).

Also if you do not have Dropbox and want to give it a try, use the link below (it gives me more space and I think you start off with additional space).