Free is always better—that’s what we are conditioned to think. However, does that adage hold true in the case of cloud storage solutions? Yes, and no: while free cloud storage does exist, for power users free storage is nothing more than dust in the wind. However, for light users, free cloud storage could more than meet their needs. Let’s run down a few different scenarios to see where free cloud storage makes sense instead of the paid versions.
If you’re like most individuals and just want to back up photos of your kids or grandkids, then a free storage solution may work just fine. The high level of security available is the same for free storage options as it is for paid, but you’re not getting the huge multi-TB storage options with a free solution. If you are a major user of technology and love to save and stream videos from your online collection, then a paid cloud storage solution is going to be essentially your only option. You can get up to a max of 50 GB of cloud-based storage for free depending on which service you decide to go with, but that will be a drop in the bucket and used up very quickly if you start storing large HD video files.
When you’re running a small business, you may or may not need a paid cloud storage solution—and it all depends on your type of business and the file sizes that you’re storing. If you’re storing a bunch of Word documents that you don’t need to be overly concerned about and maybe a small database, then a free solution for each employee may be the best option for you. However, if your small business is very active with media files such as images, graphic design files such as Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator, or movie files, then a paid solution is definitely the way to go.
Depending on the size of your enterprise, you will almost certainly need a paid account to handle your cloud storage needs. Platforms such as Dropbox or Google Drive only offer an average of 2-15 GB of storage per user, and that doesn’t allow for some of the more collaborative options that are available with Dropbox either. Part of the reason Dropbox and Google Drive work so very well is that the shared folder structure is incredibly easy to administer—much more so than a traditional team network drive that often requires an IT team member to make changes.
Truthfully, there are few differences between free and paid versions of the cloud storage solutions other than small items such as the ability to restore deleted files from Dropbox with a paid account—functionality that is not available for free accounts. When you’re faced with a crashed or stolen hard drive, then the relatively low entry cost of most paid online storage solutions feels negligible.
Many online cloud-based storage solutions have a monthly subscription rate, which can be discounted if the customer purchases a year’s worth of storage access. However, once you’ve opted into a platform and begun integrating it with your daily flow of work, it can be pretty difficult to back out of it and go in a different direction with your storage. Once you get used to having your files available no matter where you are physically located, it can get quite addictive as well.
When you’re shopping around for free or paid cloud storage, it makes sense to compare not only the GBs or TBs of storage that you’re going to gain, but also the ease of using the interface and scalability options should you suddenly go over your storage limit.