Reviewing the Best Unlimited Online Storage Providers

Unlimited online storage is offered by a number of cloud computing companies, and often at surprisingly affordable rates. With that said, there are some significant differences in the quality, and price, of the service offered by different cloud storage providers. When it comes to value delivered in their unlimited storage plans, however, most consumers agree that four companies stand above the rest.

Top 4 Unlimited Online Storage Providers
The following companies consistently rank ahead of the competition on the basis of affordability and features offered in their unlimited storage services. All pricing is as of November 2011.

MyPCBackup

With no storage limits on its service since the company’s inception, MyPCBackup has always been synonymous with unlimited online storage. Despite a massive influx of new competitors, the company remained top dog in 2011 by offering unlimited space for just $4.95/month on two-year plans (rates increase to $6.95 and $9.95 for one-year and six-month plans respectively). Each account comes with free automated backups, data synchronization for multiple computers, and security encryption software.

Mozy

Although Mozy comes up short in features when compared to many other cloud storage services (e.g. Mozy does not support mobile access), its friendly price point makes it tough to beat. With unlimited storage for just $5.99/month, the service provides more space-per-dollar than any other company in the industry. Standard features include regularly scheduled backups and private file sharing.

ElephantDrive

The biggest things that ElephantDrive has going for it are its free trial program (which allows every new user to sample the company’s service risk-free) and its competitive price on unlimited storage. At $9.95/month for unlimited space, the service is fairly priced for a collection of features that includes excellent security and private file sharing capabilities.

Carbonite

For customers who are willing to commit to a long-term plan, Carbonite provides a great yearly service rate. Its $4.92 monthly fee on one-year contracts is by far the cheapest in the industry and the service’s list of features includes scheduled backups, remote access and data encryption security.

Is Unlimited Online Storage Really “Unlimited”?
In the case of the four companies mentioned in this article, the answer is “yes – for now”. As the amount of storage space required by HD videos and other digital files continues to increase, however, some companies (e.g. Mozy) are hinting that their unlimited storage plans may eventually be discontinued. As unthinkable as it may seem, the storage space available on even the largest companies’ servers is actually disappearing. For that reason, it is highly likely that unlimited online storage may be numbered, so we should all enjoy it while we can!

Free Cloud Computing Software

Free cloud computing software is available to perform a wide variety of Software as a Service (SaaS) functions. These include everything from online cloud storage and digital file management applications, to antivirus protection for your computer. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the various types of cloud services you can use right now, free of charge.

Types of Free Cloud Computing Software
While most personal cloud computing users think of free cloud storage as being the technology’s only cost-free offering, the truth of the matter is that a large number of service providers now offer limited SaaS applications as well. Generally speaking, free programs perform one of four primary tasks.

Data Storage

Most cloud providers now offer limited free storage as a way of introducing prospective customers to their service. The user is usually given access to 2 GB or less of online storage free, and is then enticed to upgrade to a paid account through occasional reminders about the added features, etc. offered to paying customers.

Photo and Video File Editing and Management

With the ever-increasing consumer need for photo and video file storage, sharing and editing, a number of cloud computing companies have begun offering free applications to meet this demand. Among the capabilities offered by these programs are photo album creation and organization, photo editing, video creation and editing, and social media integration that allows sharing images and videos via popular services like Twitter.

Antivirus Software Protection

As opposed to the traditional approach of buying anti-virus protection and installing it onto your computer hard drive, users now have the option of protecting their systems with server-based security software. Created by Panda Security, the Cloud Antivirus application is able to detect, fix and prevent problems associated with malware in much the same manner as a store-bought program would.

GPS Software

Rivaling cloud storage for the most popular of the free cloud computing software services available, Global Positioning Satellite applications, or GPS as they are usually called, allow the user to access maps and directions from almost anywhere in the world.

The Future of Free Cloud Computing Software
The past few years have seen a remarkable surge in free cloud services offered, but that is likely to pale in comparison to what the future will bring. Traditional mainstays like Microsoft Office are expected to eventually be offered through SaaS, as well as a host of other programs that have historically dominated the client-server based software industry. Indeed, free cloud computing software may soon force consumers and businesses alike to completely rethink their technology-based needs.

Evaluating Cloud Computing Pros And Cons

Despite the varying needs of consumers, it is possible to identify several cloud computing pros and cons that are considered universal. It is important to note, however, that not all of these characteristics of cloud based computing will have a significant impact on each user that employs the technology. For this reason, it is absolutely vital to be aware of you or your organization’s specific needs when determining which cloud computing services to utilize.

Cloud Computing Pros and Cons – The Usual Suspects
Generally speaking, there are three major advantages of cloud computing, and three primary disadvantages. An overview of each follows.

Advantages of Cloud Computing
Cost Savings

For the vast majority of organizations that consider adopting cloud computing technology, managing cost is one of their primary motivations. Unlike standard business computing models, the cloud enables clients to utilize software and hardware on a per-use basis. This not only eliminates the need for capital investment, but also eliminates the wasted expense of underutilized resources.

Scalability of Resources

In today’s rapidly changing business environment, flexibility and scalability are critical to an organization’s profitability. Cloud technology makes both of these valuable capabilities accessible by allowing the client to instantly access additional resources (e.g. online cloud storage) as needed, or discontinue their use and associated cost when circumstances dictate.

System Administration

By managing all system administration, maintenance and upgrades for their clients, cloud computing providers remove this day-to-day burden and its expenses from their bottom lines. On top of the positive cost implications, this also means that the end user is guaranteed of having the latest, up-to-date software at their disposal every time they use an application.

Disadvantages of Cloud Computing
Limited Redundancy

Despite the fact that many cloud users believe that the technology’s redundancy (i.e. capacity for backing up and sharing data) is unlimited, the truth of the matter is that cloud networks can occasionally become overextended. This past year saw several high-profile cloud outages, where entire networks failed for brief periods of time and left clients unable to access their data and software.

Performance Issues

Due to increasingly strained resources in some cloud service networks, performance issues may arise for some users. These generally manifest themselves in the form of slowed down applications, which can lead to lost time and a frustrating experience for the end user.

Privacy and Security

Without a doubt, the greatest disadvantage of cloud computing for many users is lack of privacy. Because all data management is handled by a third party (i.e. the service provider) and its encryption software, organizations that deal in sensitive client information often find the typical cloud storage provider’s security systems to be inadequate.

Weighing the Cloud Computing Pros and Cons for Yourself
As mentioned at the outset, the issues mentioned in this article will affect each organization and personal cloud computing user differently. For instance, whereas the technology’s disadvantage in terms of security may make it unusable (or, in the least, unappealing) to some potential clients, it may not be consideration at all for others. Determining which of these cloud computing pros and cons are issues for you and your company requires an honest assessment of your requirements in each affected service area.

Characteristics Of A Cloud Computing Infrastructure

Cloud computing infrastructure is designed to provide users with software and services wherever, and whenever they need them. By supplying their clients with these essentials via an on-demand, pay-as-you-go model, cloud computing companies make it possible for businesses and individuals alike to enjoy all of the benefits of a traditional IT infrastructure at a fraction of the cost. Throw in the added benefits of scalability, remote access and security, and it’s no wonder that there is so much buzz over the technology these days.

This article will take a look at the common traits of cloud computing architecture, and discuss the ramifications of using this type of environment for your business or personal cloud computing needs.

Cloud Computing Infrastructure Characteristics
There are three basic characteristics required for a cloud computing infrastructure to be considered as such. A brief review of each follows.

Transparent Self-Governance

Regardless of whether a client is using private cloud computing technology or a public alternative, the expectation is that the system will be self-governing. In essence, this means that the cloud servers providing the service will incorporate some form of artificial intelligence that transparently monitors system performance, and makes automatic corrections and adjustments when needed in order to prevent interruptions of service.

Security

Secure cloud computing requires that the service in question provide adequate levels of encryption software to protect client data. To meet this need, cloud storage providers and companies that offer SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) typically encrypt data multiple times while it is being stored and transferred.

Ease of Scalability

With consumer needs changing more rapidly than ever in today’s global business environment, the necessity for instant, easy scalability of services is paramount. The best online cloud storage services facilitate this by giving users access to additional storage space as needed, while providers of other services simply increase or decrease access to applications, etc. according to client demand. In either case, the cost of the service adjusts according to how much is being consumed which, in turn, allows users to immediately scale their expenses to meet their business requirements.

What Can a Cloud Computing Infrastructure Do For You?
Regardless of whether you are trying to satisfy your small business cloud computing or personal usage requirements, adopting a cloud computing architecture can yield tremendous benefits. The expenses for capital investment in hardware and an IT staff are almost completely eliminated, as is the cost of underutilized assets. Your data and applications will be available to you and your employees anywhere at any time, and you are guaranteed of always having the latest software at your disposal. In other words, a cloud computing infrastructure effectively removes all of the traditional headaches associated with business computing once and for all.

Online Storage Solutions

The list of leading online storage solutions for 2012 includes some of the industry’s best-known cloud service providers, as well as a host of promising newcomers. In addition to established names like MyPC Backup and SugarSync, companies such as JustCloud and ZipCloud have recently jumped into the fray with online backup storage services that offer a bevy of exciting features to private and personal cloud storage users alike.

Best Online Storage Solutions for 2012
In this article, we’ll review our picks for the top four online storage solutions of the New Year: MyPC Backup, SugarSync, JustCloud and ZipCloud. The following online storage review rates each company according to pricing, features provided, security and the service’s user friendliness. While they are far from the only excellent cloud computing solutions in the marketplace today, these four companies have positioned themselves above the competition for the first half of 2012.

MyPC Backup

Offering unlimited online storage at a mere $9.95 per month, MyPC Backup consistently clobbers the competition when it comes to price-per-gigabyte of storage space. But there’s more to this veteran of the cloud storage wars than just volume. MyPC Backup also provides outstanding multi-level security features that keep your data safe and rival the industry’s finest.

While the service is undoubtedly easy to use and full of the basic features that most users expect, it does have a notable drawback in that its software must remain running in the background on any connected computer. This is fairly non-intrusive to most users, but can potentially cause performance problems on systems that are challenged for available memory.

SugarSync

One of the undisputed leaders in cloud computing for several years now, SugarSync’s pricing has always been one of its strong points and this continues to be the case in 2012. With plans starting as low as $4.95 per month for five GB of storage, the provider is extremely popular with those looking for cheap cloud storage, but its ease-of-use and unequalled lineup of features (including one-click file viewing for non-members, and tons of other services for easy sharing).

Industry-leading security features are also part of SugarSync’s service, including full data encryption during all transfers, backups and storing. In fact, the company’s security features are of such high quality that they meet the standards of the U.S. Government.

JustCloud

A relative new kid on the block, JustCloud has quickly made a name for itself through a combination of top-flight security features, easy mobile and remote accessibility, and unlimited online backup. The service ranks in the middle of the pack where price is concerned, offering an introductory package of five GB of storage for $9.95 per month.

ZipCloud

ZipCloud has shaken up the status quo over the past year by offering an array of popular, premium features at a surprisingly affordable $9.95 per month for five GB of online storage solutions. By packaging unlimited online backup storage plans with cutting-edge file management and sharing software, ZipCloud poses a threat to the industry’s elite by giving users the best of both worlds.

Another area where ZipCloud has made waves is with its extremely user-friendly interface and high-level security features. Using the latest encryption software to provide state-of-the-art protection to client data is achieved through a control panel that is every bit as intuitive and easy to use as it is chocked-full of options.

What Online Storage Solutions are Right for You?
Each of the online storage backup providers discussed in this article serves both personal and enterprise users. It is also important to note that they, along with the many other fine companies they compete against, offer customizable plans that can accommodate a wide range of business and personal needs. In other words, deciding which online storage solutions are the best fits for you requires first taking a thorough inventory of your specific needs and expectations.

How Does Cloud Computing Work?

Many people ask, “How Does Cloud Computing Work?” They recognize cloud computing as the technology that will carry the world into the future, but they know the term as jargon without understanding what cloud computing means to them. As the computing landscape morphs from desktop units into smartphones and tablets, mobile computing draws on virtual resources that reside in the cloud, a place formerly known as cyberspace.

How Does Cloud Computing Work? An Overview
Cloud computing depends on Internet-based resources to allow private individuals and business people to work from almost anywhere using almost any type of network-connected computing device. The name of the game in the cloud-computing world is accessibility and compatibility. In most cases, Web browsers provide the interaction between devices and cloud resources. If a computer or a gadget can load a Web page, it can access the cloud. In actuality, the Worldwide Web was the forerunner of the modern cloud.

Web browsers enabled computer users to access computing resources in the form of information, images, communications and commerce from any platform including DOS, Windows Mac OS,Linux, BSD and other platforms. The Web brought made the concept of universal compatibility to the IT world and laid the foundation for the evolution to the cloud.

Cloud Computing and Storage

Local computers trapped users behind desks to work. Data was always stuck on a workstation where the people who needed it could not reach it. Cloud-based storage allows users to work from any platform connected to the Internet. After leaving the office, users can load the same files into their smartphone app during the train ride home. At home, users can use their files from the office through their desktop or laptop-based Web browsers. The next day at the office, workers can reach the same files from any computer in the company.

How Does Cloud Computing Work? Applications
Software as a Service allows people to run productivity applications from any Web browser without installing specialized software on local computers and devices. This means that devices can run almost any kind of software regardless of how much memory, processing power or storage they have. This means that mobile and remote workers can use the same software as coworkers at the office.

Cloud Computing: Infrastructure and Platforms

Cloud-based infrastructure uses virtualization technology to create multiple servers and workstations on shared physical platforms. Thanks to the cloud, businesses do not need to buy physical servers. Instead, companies can create their own virtualized servers in the public or private cloud as needed. IT create servers with the amount of memory, processors and storage space they need. When complete, virtual machines can become platforms for any operating system and any application.