Although cloud-based file storage has existed in some form for a long time, it is now starting to play a more prominent role in day-to-day use. Firstly, most servies are offering generous storage amounts for free accounts: DropBox offers 2GB, Google Drive offers 5GB, and SkyDrive offers 7GB. Upgrading the amount of available storage you have is cheap too, between $0.25 and a couple of dollars per extra GB There are also services such as Bitcasa (currently only in beta) which offer unlimited storage, which is pretty tough to resist.
Price aside, most importantly of all they make it really easy to share files between all the different platforms you own – your desktop, laptop, tablet, phone – and even enable you to have access to all of your files from another persons machine if needsbe.
Gone are the days where you would be forced to log onto a website, and upload your files a handful at a time through a web form (or worse, though some java multi-uploader applet). Typcially, all you need to do is install the app, which drops a virtual folder onto your computer. You can then proceed to use this folder like any other, integrating natively with your machine, meaning it’s super simple to use. Even my technophobe fiancé has a DropBox account, which she loves!
The final convenience that cloud-based file storage offers is easy integration of files with cloud-based apps. For instance, I can be working on a word document on my desktop at home, save it to my Google Drive file, and then jump on a train and continue working on it on my galaxy tab from Google Docs, and there are a number of similar file sharing scenarios available for most of the storage services available today.
My only concern with these virtual storage systems are with the security of the files. While I trust that these services have strong security in place, I’d still feel somewhat uneasy about using storing sensitive data on them. My other concern, though I’m sure completely unfounded, is with the longevity – I’d hate to store the only copy of an important document on a cloud service and risk it vanishing. For those reasons, I find myself using virtual storage systems mainly for backups, though I
hope expect when I’m more comfortable with using these services my behaviour will shift to reflect that.