When they first arrived on the digital scene, flash drives and memory cards were some of the greatest tools to come along for computer users since the invention of the floppy disk. Copy all your important files to a memory card, throw it in your pocket or handbag, and you’re suddenly mobile.
But initially, portable yet expensive memory cards were pricey enough that it may not have been financially justifiable to have enough of them for the capacity to take along everything you would like.
Recently though, memory cards and flash drives have been priced more attractively so that you can load up on capacity at a far less significant expense.
So what has made memory cards so inexpensive now?
We Just Don’t Need Them
Truth is, most savvy computer users no longer even need to buy memory cards. There are some inherent issues with using them:
- Memory cards are still fairly expensive compared to their value
- They can quit working at the most inopportune time
- You can damage or lose them
- Lost memory cards may even expose you to issues including identity theft, if you have stored confidential information on them
Some smartphones no longer even accommodate memory cards, due to larger capacity storage included with the devices, further reducing the need for memory cards.
There Is a Better Way
Storing data in the cloud is a much more efficient way to save virtually unlimited amounts of data without the need for memory cards. Cloud storage offers many advantages to subscribers:
Sharing files with friends and family is easy and immediate. Just tell them your photos have been uploaded, and they can view – and even download – files at their convenience.
Access your files from anywhere – working on a school paper or work document that you want to edit later? Just upload the file and pick it up whenever and wherever you like.
Is There Really Such Thing as Free Clouds for Storage?
There are now a fair number of cloud services and sharing sites attracting subscribers with offers of “free” cloud storage:
- Microsoft OneDrive
- Google Drive
- Apple iCloud Drive
Numerous other services offer storage and file management free or at very reasonable prices.
Is there a catch?
True, the use of cloud storage may be at no charge from these (and other) providers.
The issue for consumers is that uploading large files from mobile devices utilizes a considerable amount of bandwidth, meaning data usage.
Subscribers to cloud storage services who also have high-performance communications such as 4G may not think much about the amount of data they’re sending, since it is relatively quick with the advances in cell technology. The reality sets in when you receive the bill from your cell phone service, with unplanned data overages.
This can of course be countered by doing your uploads through WiFi connections (in secure environments of course, if sending personal information).
File Size and the Need for Speed
Smartphones and tablets have added significantly to the demand for cloud storage. Enhanced camera quality and high resolution photos and video make these files much larger than in the past. As a result, storage is consumed at a much higher rate.
As phones and tablets fill up with digital information, the dilemma is how to free up space for new documents, more photos, games, and videos. The obvious answer – move your files to the cloud, freeing up your devices for new information.
Benefits of Moving Data to the Cloud
Cloud storage has many advantages for subscribers beyond simply providing storage facilities:
- Focus on maximizing security features
- Sharing capabilities
- Media playing
- Syncing files resident in the cloud with those on your devices
- Collaboration – allowing viewing and even editing by multiple users, including version retention
- Online backup of critical files – one of the most popular uses for cloud storage – some cloud backup services provide automated backup of individual folders or your entire system, ensuring disaster recovery capability
- Compatibility with your other applications – allowing you to open your cloud-based files with the applications you’re comfortable with
Even free services provide many of these features, including file storage (often limited to a certain amount such as 2GB), file syncing, and online backup of individual files or folders.
Updating to a fee service can increase storage capacity and provide access to advanced features such as uploading larger files – important to users sharing and editing video, graphics, and other very large files. Additional features vary by service, but may include such functionality as:
- File versioning, allowing you to access older versions of a file that has been updated
- Advanced security features
- More robust capabilities for file sharing and collaboration
- Integration with a wider range of applications
When considering a cloud provider for your files, review the features and prices carefully, to determine which product best suits your needs. A free cloud may very well provide all the capacity and functionality you need, but there are advanced capabilities of pay sites that may be worth your attention as well.