Free Cloud Storage

Numerous companies offer limited free cloud storage to clients as a way to let them test out their service before buying. If your storage needs are small (generally 5GB or less), this free service may be enough to cover them. It is important to be aware of the limitations associated with most free storage before you decide on making it part of your business’ long-term model, however.

What are the Limitations of Free Cloud Storage?

Because free online storage providers earn most of their income from larger clients who pay for storage on the same network of virtual servers used by their free clients, they do place several limitations on free usage.

Storage Limit

Free online storage providers generally limit your total storage space to less than 5GB, although some will offer more (e.g. ADrive allows up to 50GB) and others less (Google Docs limits free users to 1GB). By limiting the amount of storage space offered, these companies hope to entice free users to upgrade to paid service levels after impressing them with the quality of their product.

Maximum File Sizes

In addition to limiting the total amount of storage space available to free users, some providers also limit the file sizes that may be uploaded. This limit varies from extremely small (Amazon CloudDrive caps free clients’ files at 2GB) to fairly large (Windows Live Skydrive and OpenDrive both allow up to 100GB files). It should be noted that file size limits are only associated with some free cloud storage providers. Others do not have this limitation.

Access Limited to a Portal

Several of the cloud computing companies that provide free cloud storage only offer access to your account through a portal. This means that, instead of accessing your stored data through a desktop client, you will be required to log onto a web site in order to use your files.

Ads Shown on Your Portal Pages

One of the tradeoffs of using a free storage service is that part of your web portal page gets used as advertising space by the provider. By monetizing this page, the provider is able to generate some revenue from free clients. The downside to the user is only cosmetic, but may be an issue for some.

No Dedicated Product Support

Because free clients are not, to put it bluntly, paying customers, they are not given access to dedicated support resources. This means that they are, essentially, on their own in dealing with data loss or other problems that may arise with the storage service.

The Upside of Free Cloud Storage

Apart from the cost advantage (it’s hard to beat something that is free), free online storage providers also afford consumers something that is extremely rare in business these days – the chance to try out the actual product before purchasing it. If your data storage needs are small enough, you’ll still get to enjoy the same benefits as paying users. If you like the service provided by a particular company and your business’ needs change, you can always upgrade from free cloud storage to a paying account in order to accommodate your requirements.