How to Use Cloud Storage Like a Pro

By Ritika Tiwari
— Last Updated:

There was a time when cloud storage was just about uploading and downloading files from the cloud. These days, you can do so much more with it — like synchronize files with a local system, collaborate on documents, take notes and integrate cloud data with third-party apps.

But the big question is — are you using cloud storage to its full potential? In this article, we’ll discuss how you can use cloud storage like a pro, by maximizing free space, integrating cloud storage providers with your preferred work tools, securing data in the cloud and much more.

Here is everything you need to know, in order to use cloud storage like a pro.

1. Get Maximum Free Storage

Most cloud storage providers have a set storage limit for free users, but here is a small, yet important secret: you can go beyond that limit and extend the amount of free storage provided.

All you have to do is look for the right offers. For instance, Dropbox provides 2GB of storage, which can be extended to over 16GB, by referring the service to friends, and downloading its desktop and mobile apps. You can also get free storage if you’ve just bought a new Lenovo, HP or Samsung device.

Similarly, Google Drive provides free storage for Chromebook or Asus users, and OneDrive too, is running an offer for new Seagate customers.

These deals are only valid for a limited period and on specific devices. But if you’re planning to buy a new gadget anyway, it’s better to search for cloud storage offers before making the final purchase.

Pro Tip – If you can’t find any offers, then has a comprehensive list of cloud storage providers with large free service plans, which you should definitely check to see what’s out there.

2. Look for Paid Plans That Go Beyond Storage Space

If you’ve decided to pay for cloud storage, then opt for a provider that offers extra features, apart from just providing cloud storage space.

For instance, with Google Drive’s paid plans (G Suite), you get access to Google’s entire product suite and a free business email domain. So, if you’re looking to get a professional email domain, then by spending $5 a month, you get a personalized email address, access to emails through Gmail and 30GB of Google Drive storage space as well.

Similarly, Microsoft provides 1TB of OneDrive storage space for all Office 365 users. So, for $70 per year, you get 1TB of cloud space and Microsoft 365, which is downloadable on 1 PC/ Mac and one smartphone. By the way, buying 1TB of space on OneDrive costs $60 per year, so technically you only pay $10 extra for the entire Office 365 suite.

Pro Tip – Always stay on the lookout for offers on normal storage plans. You could also try looking for coupon codes to get a discount.

3. Send E-mail Attachments From The Cloud

One primary reason users opt for cloud storage is so they can share files online, without having to continuously upload the same file, every time they need to send it to a new person.  Many prominent cloud storage providers let users to directly attach files as email attachments, which the recipient can then directly download without signing up to any cloud storage service.

Google Drive, of course, has inbuilt Gmail integration, allowing users to send Drive files directly as links or attachments.

Dropbox also provides Gmail integration, with the Dropbox for Gmail Chrome extension. But unlike Google Drive, Dropbox only allows users to add a file link and not an actual file attachment. Similarly, Microsoft Outlook users can directly attach OneDrive files to any email or save emailed attachments to OneDrive.

Pro Tip – If the email and cloud storage provider you use doesn’t provide a direct integration, use an app integration tool like Zapier to connect two providers.

4. Collaborating on Documents Online

Sharing and collaboration online are incredibly convenient thanks to cloud storage, but before you start sharing critical files, it’s essential to understand how access control and file permissions work.

There are three levels of permissions:

  • View only
  • View and comment only
  • Edit only

The first permission level is perfect for sharing the same file with a large number of users, and you don’t want them to edit or modify the file, even by mistake.

The second permission level is useful when you need user feedback, but still, don’t want users to change a file in any way. Also, if you already have comments in the file which you want users to see, then opt for the “comments only” permission. Only give editing privileges if you want users to modify files or collaborate with you.

Pro Tip – By checking a file’s revision history, you can view changes made by each user, revert to a previous document version or download an older version.

5. Selective Sync to Access Data Across Multiple Devices

Selective syncing allows access to cloud data as if it were on a local drive. We usually have a lot of files on our cloud storage accounts and syncing them all with a local drive can lead to space issues on your PC. With selective sync, a lack of space is never going to be a problem, and you can still access important files from multiple devices.

To activate selective sync, you’ll have to download the desktop client of your particular cloud service provider. Once that’s done, just check mark all the folders you want to sync with the local drive. Any changes made to files locally are synced to the cloud whenever the system connects to the Internet, and changes are then visible on all synced devices.

Pro Tip – Selective syncing only works for folders and not for individual files. So, even if you only select one folder to be synced with the local drive, all the other files stored in your main cloud storage folder will also get synced. That’s why, before starting the process, check the entire folder structure to make sure no unnecessary files are lying around.

6. Incorporate Productivity Tools

Cloud-based productivity tools have become a necessity, especially for freelancers and remote teams that have members from all around the world. Some cloud storage providers have inbuilt productivity tools, and others support a large number of third-party add-ons.

For instance, Google Drive recently introduced Google’s note keeping app, Keep — as an inbuilt feature for Google Docs. So, every time you’re working on a document, you can open Keep, take notes and revisit it whenever you open the document again.

Dropbox has converted its new text editing tool, Dropbox Paper, into a task management tool. Users can now add checkboxes, assign it to a user, leave a comment and even put a deadline.

Evernote, a note-taking productivity app, also sports Google Drive integration. So every time you paste a Google Drive link into Evernote, it automatically starts displaying the link information.

Project management tools like Asana and Trello also support cloud storage providers, allowing users to upload files from a cloud account directly.

Pro Tip – If the productivity app you use doesn’t directly integrate with your preferred cloud storage provider, use an app integration tool like IFTTT or Zapier. IFTTT is free, while Zapier isn’t, but it supports more premium services. 

7. Sharing Pictures Via The Cloud

When it comes to sharing pictures via the cloud, look for a cloud storage provider with plenty of space, since images can take up a lot of space, especially if you’re using high-performance digital cameras. Google Drive provides unlimited cloud storage for pictures, as long as an image’s quality is lower than 16 megapixels.

And of course, there is Flickr, which provides 1TB storage space for images with no file-size or type restrictions. If you’re just looking to store pictures in the cloud for sharing purposes, then just about any cloud storage provider will do. But the professional photographer might want to use a vendor like OneDrive or Flickr.

Because they display meta-data of every picture and can add tags (even though Flickr doesn’t truly qualify as a cloud storage provider, since it’s more of a platform for photographers to showcase their work).

Pro Tip – listed the top five online cloud storage for photos which you should definitely check out.

8. Encrypt Data In The Cloud

Security is an important concern when it comes to storing data in the cloud. To make sure your data is always secure un the cloud, select a cloud storage provider with end-to-end private encryption and a zero-knowledge policy.

With private encryption, the key to encrypted data stays with you and not with the vendor. So, technically, even the cloud storage provider can’t know what data you are storing on their servers. However, at the same time, if you lose or forget the encryption key then there’s no way of accessing the data, ever.

Also, with private encryption, there is no way to preview files. You need to download the files first, enter the encryption key and only then can you view them. Yes, it is inconvenient, but alas that’s the price of privacy.

Pro Tip – If you’re already using a cloud storage provider and don’t want to switch to another one, just to encrypt your data, then use a tool like Boxcryptor which automatically encrypts files before uploading them to a cloud storage provider.

In Conclusion

It’s safe to say that the ease-of-access and mobility which cloud storage brings to the table is unparalleled. Also, as you’ve probably discovered by now, cloud storage providers offer a lot of features, apart from just uploading and downloading files.

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By understanding every aspect of these features, you can use cloud storage like a pro and explore its real potential. So, which one of these tips did you already know?

Let us know in the comments.