We recently reviewed some of the popular cloud storage services in an attempt to help you choose the best one, but why should you necessarily have to choose just one? Instead, use them all to create an organised online backup system that's completely free.
The concept is pretty simple: sign up for as many free cloud storage accounts as you need and utilise each one to back up different kinds of files. For example,
- Dropbox offers you 2GB of free storage that you can expand to a full 16GB by referring others to the service. Because Dropbox also syncs files to your other computers and makes your files easily accessible on your mobile devices, it's a good candidate for your primary work files.
- SugarSync offers 5GB of free storage (sign up here) and syncs files just like Dropbox. While I prefer Dropbox, SugarSync has a bunch of features Dropbox does not. It's especially good at handling media files or any files on your hard drive (while Dropbox only really syncs files inside your Dropbox, unless you circumvent that limitation). SugarSync is a good option for syncing important files that you keep outside Dropbox, but I think it is especially good for your photos. While Dropbox has photo viewing options, it's not quite as robust as SugarSync. If you have photos you want backed up and can keep them under 5GB, SugarSync will handle them very well for free.
- Windows Live SkyDrive isn't great for backup purposes, as all files need to be under 50MB, but you do get 25GB of storage for free and that makes it great for archiving documents. You'll have plenty of room and can use Windows Live Mesh for backup and synchronisation purposes if you're on a Windows computer. Mac users will have to backup manually through the site, but that's a small price to pay for 25GB of storage.
- MemoPal offers 3GB of free cloud storage and gives you more space through referrals in the same manner as Dropbox. It's capable of automatic backup and runs on Mac, Windows, and Linux.
- ADrive offers 50GB of storage for free. You won't get any sync or auto-backup options, so it'll make for a better file archive than anything, but it's still 50GB of free online storage.
- IDrive offers 5GB of free storage and automatic backup for Windows and Mac. It also has smartphone apps so you can access your files remotely.
The downside to using a bunch of services is, obviously, that your storage is fragmented, but I'd argue that there's a benefit in that as well. If you segregate the types of files you back up (and sync) with each service, you know exactly where to find them. For example, you'll know your photos are on SugarSync and yourwork is on Dropbox. The other downside is that you'll have a few apps running processes on your system all at once. For the most part this should work just fine so long as you don't try to alter, say, your photos and your primary work files at the same time. If multiple backup and sync apps are competing for resources, that'll slow things down a bit, but this is a problem you should run into pretty rarely if your files are truly segregated by type.
If you know of any other free cloud storage services we didn't mention (and we imagine there are many), please share them in the comments!