If you’ve ever found yourself running out of space on your computer, online storage could be the solution to your problems. What is online storage, you ask? Well, it’s a place on the internet where you can upload and store files. Using online storage leaves you with much more valuable space on your hard drive for your important files and applications.
- Online storage refers to storing files online, which can take multiple forms, such as cloud storage and online backup.
- Cloud storage lets you sync, share and collaborate on files online.
- Sync.com is the best cloud storage service, offering zero-knowledge encryption and very affordable pricing.
In this article, we’ll go through why online storage is useful and how to get the most out of it. We’ll talk about its advantages and any disadvantages it might have, so keep reading to find out how you can put online storage to good use.
Online storage is a kind of software that takes your data and stores it in the cloud, so that it doesn’t hog the storage on your devices.
Online storage can help you free up space on your device, but having your data in the cloud lets you do many more things with it, such as sharing and collaborating online.
The only disadvantage of online storage is that you have to be online to use it. Luckily, online platforms let you sync your data to your computer so that it’s available even when you’re offline.
What Is Online Storage?
You’ve probably heard of “the cloud” by now (you’re visiting Cloudwards.net, after all) but the cloud offers more than just online storage space. With your data in the cloud, you have much more flexibility in what you can do with it.
First, let’s clear up some terminology. “Online storage” is a very broad term that encompasses multiple categories. Chief among these categories are cloud storage and online backup. Although they’re similar in that they both store your files online, each has its purpose and you can use both of them simultaneously.
Online backup services can copy your entire hard drive to the cloud, which lets you restore your data in the case of a hard drive crash (and that happens more often than you’d think). However, online backup services don’t let you manipulate or really access your data once it’s in the cloud.
Cloud storage platforms are much more versatile. A cloud storage service stores your files in a way that makes them easy to access and share. You can always access files in a storage cloud, either via an app or a website, as long as you’re connected to the internet. Plus, cloud storage services let you sync files to your computer, so they’re accessible even when you’re offline.
The Benefits of Online Storage Services
Now that you know what online storage is, here are a few ways it can be useful for you (you can check out our dedicated piece for a better look at the risks and benefits of cloud storage).
1. Sync files across multiple devices
Many online storage providers have apps that will create a special folder on your computer called a “sync folder.” Files placed in this sync folder will automatically sync to the cloud, making them available on every device that has the cloud app installed. However, this method of syncing files can lead to duplicate files on your system, which means less free space.
2. Free up space on your computer
Plenty of cloud services these days use an improved syncing method called “selective sync.” Selective sync lets you choose which folders from your cloud to sync to your computer, so that only the most important ones are left on your device. Some services don’t create a sync folder at all and simply let you mark a folder on your computer to sync to the cloud, which means no more duplicate files.
An even better syncing method is the so-called “virtual drive,” like the one Icedrive uses. It’s an extra drive on your computer, like “Local Disk (C:),” that doesn’t take up any space. Instead, all the files on this drive exist only online, but you can still access them by downloading them temporarily (which happens automatically).
The downside to this is that you need a constant internet connection if you want to have access to your files, which isn’t always possible.
3. Share files with your friends & coworkers
Once your data is uploaded to the cloud, it’s very easy to share. A cloud service will usually have a way to easily share files via links that you can copy and send to whomever you want. Plus, many services add extra features that make sharing more secure.
Sharing files also makes online collaboration easy. Using online storage, you can store a file and share a link to a coworker. You can then give them permission to edit the file, so that you can work on it together.
4. Use third-party cloud apps for productivity
Of course, online storage can do much more than syncing and sharing. Some cloud storage services can integrate with built-in tools and even third-party apps, which greatly increases their functionality.
For example, Google Drive integrates with pretty much every Google app, including the Google Workspace suite of office apps. This means that you can create a Google Docs file straight from your Drive folder and edit it online. Plus, it has an entire app store where you can find third-party extensions, which can greatly expand Google Drive’s functionality.
Needless to say, Drive is just one example, and plenty of other online storage services can integrate different tools and apps into their service. Dropbox and OneDrive are other examples of cloud services that provide many extensions, third-party or otherwise.
5. Backup your data in case of an accident
There will come a day when your hard drive will just stop working and you won’t be able to recover your files. It could be a simple hard drive crash, a natural disaster or just plain theft, but there are many instances where you might regret not having an online backup in the cloud. A cloud backup platform will keep your files safe until the need arises to restore them.
The Disadvantages of Online Storage
There’s really only one problem with online storage. To access your cloud-based files, you need an internet connection. However, as we already mentioned, syncing your files will alleviate that problem, as it will let you access them even when you’re offline (you can also read our guide to the best offline cloud storage if accessing your files offline is a must).
What Are the Best Cloud Storage Providers?
There are plenty of cloud storage options out there, so it can be hard to wrap your head around all the options. Fret not, though, as we’ve got a few recommendations to make your choice easier.
Although it’s difficult to name the best cloud service, we do rigorous testing to determine the best performer. At Cloudwards.net, we put the greatest weight on price and security, since that is what will benefit regular customers the most. Without further ado, here are some of the best online storage services currently available.
1. Sync.com: Best Overall Cloud Storage
More details about Sync.com:
- Pricing: 5GB free; 2TB for $8 per month on the yearly plan
- Provider website: www.sync.com
Sync.com is a cloud-based storage provider that’s all about user privacy and security. It offers zero-knowledge encryption (check out this guide if you don’t know what that is) and its data centers are kept under strict surveillance. It even has HIPAA compliance, meaning it’s certified to keep sensitive medical data, so you know any cloud data stored on Sync.com is as safe as it can be.
Sync.com is cheap, too, and its pricing plans are among the best cloud storage deals out there. Sync.com’s 2TB plan is especially attractive, coming in at a mere $8 per month (with annual billing).
Its free plan is not too shabby, offering private encryption for your files at no cost, though it only comes with 5GB of storage capacity. Read our full Sync.com review to find out more about our favorite cloud provider.
2. pCloud: Best Free Online Storage
More details about pCloud:
- Pricing: 10GB free; 2TB for $7.99 per month on the yearly plan
- Provider website: www.pcloud.com
pCloud is the best free storage service. pCloud’s free plan comes with 10GB of storage space. Granted, you’ll have to unlock some of those gigabytes by performing tasks, but they’re simple things like installing the desktop client and sharing a file.
Besides the generous storage capacity, pCloud offers plenty of features to its free clients, including its amazing video and music players. In fact, the free plan leaves out only passwords and expiry dates for sharing links and zero-knowledge encryption for your cloud data. If you really want zero-knowledge protection, you can get it with the pCloud Crypto paid add-on.
The service is located in Switzerland with servers in the EU, so your files are protected by strict online privacy laws, such as the GDPR (read our full guide to Swiss privacy laws). Take a look at our pCloud review to find out more about this amazing service.
3. Egnyte Connect: Best Cloud Storage for Business
More details about Egnyte Connect:
- Pricing: 1TB per user for $20 per user per month for 10-100 users
- Provider website: www.egnyte.com
If your company or small business is in need of online storage, the best thing to do is use an enterprise file sync and share service (or EFSS). Our number-one choice is Egnyte Connect; companies will benefit from its user management policies and over 150 app integrations.
Egnyte makes data management easy and keeps content sprawl in check by providing a singular storage space for all of your apps. It truly provides the best online office experience out of any cloud storage service, so be sure to check out our full review of Egnyte, where we really dig into the details.
That’s it for this online storage guide. We hope you enjoyed it and that you took away a few valuable lessons about why online storage is useful. Are you switching to online storage? Which cloud service is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below. As always, thank you for reading.