Dirt Cheap Cloud Storage

I have become a huge proponent of the “cloud as network” school of thought. I edit documents, check my mail, manage my calendar and track my projects, all online. I can work just about anywhere with an internet connection, and these days, that’s pretty much everywhere. Due to some excellent products that have recently reached maturity, I can extend that to my personal storage, as well.

"Only wimps use tape backup: _real_ men just upload their important stuff on ftp, and let the rest of the world mirror it ;)" — Linus Torvald

I’ve long been a fan of Dropbox, which is a little bit more than a storage solution. If you are not familiar with it, it fills a role similar to the old “Briefcase” functionality introduced with Windows XP. Drop a file into your local Dropbox folder, and it’s instantly synchronized with their web-accessible storage site. If you have the client installed anywhere else, such as your home PC or your work laptop, it will synchronize there, as well. It comes with 2 GB of free storage which is plenty for most people’s working document needs. I use it to keep local copies of KeePass and a personal wiki always up to date. If 2 GB isn’t enough for you, upgrades in 50 GB increments are available for about $10/Mo. Did I mention the free Linux client? I can’t say enough nice things about this service.

For a more straight-forward storage solution, it’s hard to beat the 25 GB freely offered by Microsoft with their SkyDrive service. Any files uploaded to their site are easily accessed from any browser you log in to. It doesn’t synchronize with local drives in the background, but, hey, it’s sure is large! That said, I’ve found the service to be much more useful when paired with an inexpensive desktop client called “SDExplorer”. For less than $14, you gain the ability to map a local drive to to SkyDrive, and even run files directly from the site. There's a free version of the app that still gives you the ability to drag and drop to the cloud, but the premium version is well worth the price of admission.

While 2-25GB may not sound like much when compared to the size of most media libraries, you’d have to be a pretty prolific writer to use up that kind of space with the documents for which these services were designed. You can have every brilliant process, every inspired design, and every life-saving spreadsheet you’ve ever written always at hand for nothing, or close to it, with these services. With services like these, it may be time to consider leaving the thumb drive at home, in the box with your floppy disks and PS/2 adapters.

A discussion of cheap cloud storage would not be complete without a mention of my favorite back-up service, Mozy. This nifty service runs scheduled back-up jobs, creating copies of your most important files to their servers. It’s fire-and-forget: Set up your back-up jobs and fuhgetaboutit. For a whopping $5 a month, you get unlimited storage as long as you are backing up local drives from a desktop OS. With a few creative batch jobs and a large-ish D drive, that can equate to practically every file you have. I once lost my entire media library in a hard drive crash, and recovered it all with Mozy, so you’ll never hear me begrudging the lousy $5.

[Update 5/16/2011 - Mozy is no longer priced so attractively for a home user with a lot of data. Nothing is, really, but Carbonite is another good offering in this area]

Set up correctly, cloud storage is almost invisible. It’s just files you always have close and never lose. Is there any other way to do this?