Cloud Storage – 3 Free Options for Web-Based File Hosting

Conducting a quick Google search on “Cloud-based file hosting” provides several results.   For anyone that has been watching the world of computing shift to the “cloud”, one obvious question is which hosting service is best and what do they offer?   I’ve recently compiled some notes on 3 popular cloud-based hosting services, DropBox, Box.net, and SugarSync.

Dropbox
Dropbox is one of the more popular web file hosting services out there today.  It is a really nice product that has some great features.   The first 2GB of storage are free, which is pretty standard for web-based file hosting services.  Dropbox requires that you download a program that is installed on each computer that you plan on using.   Once installed, it is quite easy to use – just place your files and folders in your “Dropbox” folder on your local computer and it is automatically synced to your web account as well as synced across all of your computers.

This is a great system that is easy to use and has a large user base.   My only gripe about it is that you cannot define your own local folders to sync using the free version (at the time of this writing.)   It may have this functionality with the paid version, which I did not try out.

Pros:  Ease of use, Syncing of Files across web and multiple computers, Supports several platforms
Cons:  Only 2 GB of free storage, Inability to specify custom folders on local drive for syncing in free version

Box.net
Like Dropbox, Box.net is also very popular and has garnered much press for its features and interface.  A very nice feature of Box.net is the 5GB of storage available with the free version.   One major downfall of the free version of Box.net is the lack of support for syncing across multiple computers – this is only available with the “Pro” paid version.

Some other nice features included with Box.net include the ability to share and link files on the web to anyone, as well as the ability to edit spreadsheet and word processing files using their embedded web-based software.  Currently they partner with Zoho to allow the editing of spreadsheets and word processing.  Box.net has a very nice interface and the ability to shares and edit files across an organization.  I mainly use my box.net to post files that I wish to shares with others.

Pros:  Ability to edit files using Zoho, File sharing capabilities, 5GB free storage, no download required to use
Cons:  File syncing across computers and the web only allowed in “Pro” version

SugarSync
SugarSync has been my cloud storage platform of choice.  I currently use it back up all of my person data.   It currently includes 5GB of free storage.   It does require a download to all computers that you wish to be synced, but after setting it up, it has worked perfectly.   Whenever I update a file on one computer, it is automatically updated online and on all other synced computers.

Unlike Box.net, it does not have the ability to edit files easily across the web.  They do have something call “websync” that allows a user to download from the web, edit it offline, and then sync back up to the web.  It is a little clunky though.  My thought is that if you are desire to store and edit online, use a web-based office application like Google Docs or Zoho Office. They also have this funny thing called “The Magic Briefcase” – its basically just a stock folder that is created on your local computer where you can sync files easily without having to set up custom folders.

If you are looking for a no frills cloud storage platform that works well and is easy to set up, I would recommend SugarSync.

Pros: Ability to sync user specified files across multiple computers, 5GB of free storage
Cons:  Does not have web-based editing tools, smaller user base than Box.net or Dropbox

In conclusion
This post just scratches the surface of cloud storage.  There are several types and levels of storage available depending upon one’s needs and budget.   The 3 platforms discussed here represent ones that I have had success with.

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