Finance: Keep Data Safe in the Cloud
Financial guidance for your financial life
You probably got the memo ages ago that you need to back up your computer’s files religiously. Otherwise, they could disappear into the void should your computer’s hard drive implode or your machine fall victim to hackers.
Today, much of what you do on your computer, tablet and smartphone – from accessing email to streaming music and movies – relies on the cloud. Experts still recommend regularly backing up files on an external hard drive and disconnecting it from your computer when you’re done. But you should also use an internet-based service to save, sync or back up your files.
In recent years, space in the cloud has gotten cheaper, and many cloud storage providers have expanded their menus to offer a wider variety of plans and features. Keeping your documents and other files in the cloud will lighten the load on your computer’s hard drive and allow you to access your files from anywhere.
Most cloud services offer a limited amount of storage free, then charge monthly or annual fees for additional space. For example, Amazon Drive for Prime members, Apple’s iCloud and Microsoft’s OneDrive provide 5 gigabytes of free storage; Box offers 10GB, and Dropbox provides 2GB. One terabyte of data storage – enough to hold tens of thousands of digital images, plus files and documents – typically costs $100 to $120 a year. That’s plenty of memory if you’re sharing the space or using it to store movies or lots of photos.
The service that’s right for you will depend on the types of files you store, how much space you need and whether you plan to edit or access the files regularly or share them with others.
Before signing up for a larger, paid storage plan, use a service’s tools to upload and view a handful of files to make sure you find the process straightforward and convenient. Consider keeping documents with sensitive information on your computer’s hard drive or encrypting the files before uploading them to the cloud.
It’s hard to beat Google’s offerings, including 15GB of free storage if you have a Google account. Need more space? Upgrade to a paid storage plan and share your storage space with up to five family members. A 2TB storage plan costs $100 a year. And regardless of how much storage space you have, Google provides a robust workbench of tools that allow you to edit documents, spreadsheets and other files on the go and share them with others. Or, if photos from your smartphone are gobbling up space, stash the images in Google Photos.
Other solid options include Dropbox and iCloud. Dropbox’s meager 2GB of free storage won’t hold many files, but the company’s Plus plan ($99 a year) includes 1TB of space and makes sharing files between devices a breeze.
Apple devotees are best served by iCloud. The service works with both Apple and Windows devices, but iCloud is already baked into Apple devices and is an easy way to back up your smartphone. You’ll get 5GB of free storage, and a 2TB storage plan – which can be shared with up to five family members – costs $10 a month.
Kaitlin Pitsker is a staff writer at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. And for more on this and similar money topics, visit Kiplinger.com.
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