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Need More Storage? Reach for the Cloud

Storing data in the cloud is one way to expand beyond the capacity of your local drive, but make sure you understand the pros and cons.

By Tony Bradley
January 30, 2012 02:21 PM ET

PC World - When you start out with a fresh new hard drive, it may seem like it has virtually unlimited capacity. The reality, though, is that it won't take nearly as long to max out that drive as you might think, and you will need to find some way to expand your storage.

You can simply upgrade and replace the drive with a larger one, or you can tack on some external storage, but disk drives--both internal and external--are yesterday's technology. Another solution is to embrace the cloud and store your data online where the only limitation to your storage capacity is how much money you want to spend.

The rise of tablets and ultrabooks is driving a trend that makes cloud storage not only appealing, but required. Tablets use flash storage that is generally limited to 32GB or 64GB, and ultrabooks that use SSD drives have 256GB, or even a mere 128GB of storage. In exchange for convenience and portability, you sacrifice storage capacity and the logical solution is to connect to the cloud while you're on the go.

Benefits

The three primary benefits of cloud data storage are unlimited capacity, virtually ubiquitous access, and backups. Upgrading your drive, or expanding your storage with external drives are both temporary Band-Aids. No matter what size drive you use, odds are good you will one day fill it up.

There isn't any risk of you filling up the cloud. Granted, more capacity will cost you more money. But, with cloud storage you can generally just subscribe to a higher capacity plan and add storage space immediately when the need arises. You can also add capacity temporarily to fill a short-term need, and then roll back to the storage plan you normally use without being saddled with drives you no longer need.

With cloud storage, you have access to your data from anywhere in the world that you can connect to the Internet. You can travel with confidence with your tablet or ultrabook, knowing that you have your data "with you" at all times.

Most cloud storage services also provide ways to share access to files with others, or even collaborate on the files in real-time over the Internet. Having data in the cloud provides you with opportunities to work more efficiently and be more productive than you can with data anchored to your PC.

Another benefit of using cloud storage is that the cloud service provider most likely has redundant servers, storing data on redundant drives, mirrored to redundant data centers. When the data is stored on your PC, or an external drive, it can be lost or stolen, or get corrupted, and if you haven't backed it up recently you're out of luck. But with the cloud, the backups are a benefit that come more or less automatically.

Originally published on www.pcworld.com. Click here to read the original story.
Reprinted with permission from PCWorld.com. Story copyright 2012 PC World Communications. All rights reserved.
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