Technology

Keep Data Safe in the Cloud

Internet-based services to back up and store files and photos are inexpensive.

You probably got the memo ages ago that you need to back up your computer’s files religiously. Otherwise, they could disappear into the void should your computer’s hard drive implode or your machine fall victim to hackers. Today, much of what you do on your computer, tablet and smartphone—from accessing e-mail to streaming music and movies—relies on the cloud. Experts still recommend regularly backing up files on an external hard drive and disconnecting it from your computer when you’re done. But you should also use an internet-based service to save, sync or back up your files.

In recent years, space in the cloud has gotten cheaper, and many cloud storage providers have expanded their menus to offer a wider variety of plans and features. Keeping your documents and other files in the cloud will lighten the load on your computer’s hard drive and allow you to access your files from anywhere.

Most cloud services offer a limited amount of storage free, then charge monthly or annual fees for additional space. For example, Amazon Drive for Prime members, Apple’s iCloud and Microsoft’s OneDrive provide 5 gigabytes of free storage; Box offers 10GB, and Dropbox provides 2GB. One terabyte of data storage—enough to hold tens of thousands of digital images, plus files and documents—typically costs $100 to $120 a year. That’s plenty of memory if you’re sharing the space or using it to store movies or lots of photos.

Picking a storage plan. With so many companies offering cloud storage, you’ll find no shortage of options that offer ample space for your files, music, home videos and pictures. The service that’s right for you will depend on the types of files you store, how much space you need and whether you plan to edit or access the files regularly or share them with others.

Before signing up for a larger, paid storage plan, use a service’s tools to upload and view a handful of files to make sure you find the process straightforward and convenient. Consider keeping documents with sensitive information on your computer’s hard drive or encrypting the files before uploading them to the cloud.

It’s hard to beat Google’s offerings, including 15GB of free storage if you have a Google account. Need more space? Upgrade to a paid storage plan and share your storage space with up to five family members. A 2TB storage plan costs $100 a year. And regardless of how much storage space you have, Google provides a robust workbench of tools that allow you to edit documents, spreadsheets and other files on the go and share them with others. Or, if photos from your smartphone are gobbling up space, stash the images in Google Photos. You’ll have unlimited storage space for the images if you allow Google to compress photos to a resolution of 16 megapixels and videos to 1080p (enough to store most cell-phone photos without compromising image quality).

Other solid options include Dropbox and iCloud. Dropbox’s meager 2GB of free storage won’t hold many files, but the company’s Plus plan ($99 a year) includes 1TB of space and makes sharing files between devices a breeze. Apple devotees are best served by iCloud. The service works with both Apple and Windows devices, but iCloud is already baked into Apple devices and is an easy way to back up your smartphone. You’ll get 5GB of free storage, and a 2TB storage plan—which can be shared with up to five family members—costs $10 a month.

For broader protection against hard drive failure, a stolen device or a ransomware attack, opt for a cloud backup service such as Backblaze ($50 a year for a single device and unlimited space). Unlike cloud syncing services, which are designed to hold only files or folders that you’ve linked or uploaded, cloud backup services copy most, if not all, of the files on your computer. And many encrypt your files before sending them to the server.

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
9 Great Growth ETFs for 2022 and Beyond
ETFs

9 Great Growth ETFs for 2022 and Beyond

These growth ETFs offer exposure to higher-risk, higher-reward stocks while lessening the risk of a single stock torpedoing your returns.
January 18, 2022
The 10 Best Closed-End Funds (CEFs) for 2022
CEFs

The 10 Best Closed-End Funds (CEFs) for 2022

These high-yielding CEFs won't just significantly boost your portfolio income. They'll also allow you to buy their underlying stocks and bonds at a di…
January 12, 2022

Recommended

22 Products You’ll Waste Money Buying at Warehouse Clubs
Costco

22 Products You’ll Waste Money Buying at Warehouse Clubs

We talked to shopping experts to find out which products shoppers should steer clear of (and why) at warehouse clubs Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s.
January 22, 2022
Kiplinger's Weekly Earnings Calendar
stocks

Kiplinger's Weekly Earnings Calendar

Check out our earnings calendar for the upcoming week, as well as our previews of the more noteworthy reports.
January 21, 2022
Time to Press the Money ‘Pause Button’ after the Holidays
spending

Time to Press the Money ‘Pause Button’ after the Holidays

If you overspent on the holidays, and spoiled your kids in the process, now’s the time to make some changes.
January 20, 2022
Microsoft Buys Activision With One Eye on the Cloud
tech stocks

Microsoft Buys Activision With One Eye on the Cloud

MSFT’s $68.7 billion deal for ATVI brings the tech giant a library of A+ titles … and another way to leverage its cloud heft.
January 18, 2022