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How to choose a cloud storage service

Selecting from the crowd in the cloud

Cloud Storage

Cloud computing could form an important part of your technological life, but you have to know what you're looking for. Here are some tips on what to look for in a cloud storage service. (See also: the Top 20 cloud storage services.)

In conversation with an older relative the other day I was astounded when they casually dropped in the following question: "I see you weren't at CES this year. Was that because it is on the way down, with no Apple and no Microsoft?" Reader, my flabber was gasted. Firstly, that my relative had any idea of what I do and why I have on occasion spent time in Nevada, but also that he was sufficiently aware of CES to have formed an opinion on a technology trade event.

For the record, Apple hasn't been to CES in decades, and Microsoft's absence may be best for both parties. There was no killer product or product type at CES 2013, but the fact that non-tech fans are even aware of its existence shows both the enduring power of that show, and just how mainstream technology now is. Check out our Best new products of CES 2013 story.

It can be strange to edit a niche publication whose subject is now considered fodder for the mainstream press. On the one hand we have more than 5 million readers, which is nice, and when Windows 8 launched I was quoted in a national newspaper. Unfortunately my nuanced take on Microsoft's latest OS was distilled to just a few words, one of which was 'sexy' (and not in a good way). If computers are now consumer technology goods and tech is for everyone it's a shame that the way it is covered for- and promoted to the masses is so often dumbed down.

Cloud computing: choosing cloud storage

Cloud computing is a classic example. Being able to store files and media on the web has the potential to change forever the way we compute. Combined with the variety of always-connected devices that we increasingly carry, it means we can access our music and movies, or work on documents, wherever we are. This would require an unreasonable amount of local storage, but save things to the cloud and, provided you can get online, you're good to go.

But 'cloud' has become a buzz word, and there is a bewildering range of sites and services from which you can choose. Each has its own pricing structure, pros and cons. And that's just the true cloud services: due to the popularity of the term, vendors of any kind of online service have taken to appending the word 'cloud' to their products.

Cloud storage: Types of cloud service

There are several different types of cloud-computing service. You can roughly group them as follows: services that let you share and sync files and those that allow you to collaborate on documents; tools with which to send large files, and online backup services; and then there are the fun ones: cloud services that allow you to store and share music and photos.

The whole point about the cloud is it should simplify and make portable your established workflows. So, when choosing a cloud provider, the critical factors are what job you want it do, and how much that will cost. Factor in what smartphones, tablets, PCs and laptops you wish to use, and you should find a cloud computing client and service to suit you.

To start your journey into the clouds, read our in-depth feature: the Top 20 cloud storage services.

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