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11 free online storage services to claim your space in the cloud

It’s so easy to generate a mountain of digital files nowadays. We take more photos than ever, shoot hours of video, and love to share. Cloud storage provides convenient access wherever we may be, like a digital filing cabinet, and it’s also great for collaborating on projects and provides a simple way of sharing files with selected family, friends, or business contacts. But it can also cost a pretty penny.

Below are our favorite cloud services and some tips on how to avoid paying for cloud storage at all.

Organize your files into groups, and use different services

Most cloud storage services offer you a limited amount of free space, in the hopes that you’ll upgrade when you run out and sign up to a subscription package. If you’re willing to do a little organizing then there’s really no need to pay anything at all. Start by breaking your files down into groups. Split your photos and videos, organize by date, or pick a single service for your media. Also, keep your documents grouped together, separate all your work related files, and so on. Once you have your groups, take a look at how much space you need and create separate free cloud storage accounts for each category.

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We’ve rounded up the main options for free cloud storage accounts. All of these options can be accessed from your desktop or laptop through an app or your Web browser.

NOTE: These figures are correct at the time of publishing, but the cloud storage space is competitive and limits and offers frequently change.

Most commonly used: Dropbox

  • 2GB (500MB per referral up to 16GB)
  • Android, iOS, BlackBerry

Dropbox is easy to use, very reliable, and one of the oldest players in cloud storage. There are few restrictions on what you can upload, and you can share folders with other Dropbox users or send links to allow people to access your files. You can also create public folders if you wish. You can access previous versions of files for up to 30 days, and there’s a desktop client and the option to log in anywhere through your browser.

Best option for photo backup: Google Drive

  • 15GB
  • Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone

The 15GB you get from Google spans Gmail, Google + Photos, and Google Drive. However, there are lots of exceptions that don’t count towards your limit, for example photos smaller than 2048 x 2048 pixels and videos shorter than 15 minutes uploaded to your Google+ Photos don’t count. You’ll also find that Google documents you create within Drive don’t count. You can access Google Drive through a client or your web browser. Deleted files go into your trash or bin and they stay there until you either permanently delete them or restore them.

Best option for Windows users: OneDrive

  • 15GB
  • Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone

Microsoft’s OneDrive used to be called SkyDrive and you’ll need a Hotmail or Live mail account to use it. You can access your files through a client or your Web browser. There’s an extra 3GB available if you activate camera roll back-up to save photos automatically. You can also create public folders and deleted files go into the recycle bin for 30 days, so you can restore them during that period.

If you use Amazon, try: Amazon Cloud Drive

  • 5GB
  • Android, iOS

Everyone gets 5GB for free with Amazon’s Cloud Drive, but Fire phone owners get free unlimited storage for photos and videos. You can share files easily via URL. Deleted files go into your deleted Items list and can be restored unless they are deleted permanently.

Save space on shared files: Copy

  • 15GB
  • Android, iOS, Windows Phone

There are no file size limits with Copy and uniquely you can split the bill on storage when you share files. It’s easy to share files and you can access your storage through a client or Web browser. You can also check previous versions of files and restore deleted files.

For multi-device file access: Box

  • 10GB
  • Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone

You can easily share files with links or create collaborative folders with Box, which also allows for shared workspaces with tasks and comments. Files have a version history so you can revert easily if required. Deleted files go into trash and can be restored for up to 30 days.

For small iPhone/iPad backups: Apple iCloud

  • 5GB for Apple device owners
  • iOS

You may as well use this if you own an eligible Apple device, but it has a lot of limitations. It’s no good for sharing or collaboration, so just use it to back up personal files. If you have an iPhone or iPad then it can automatically back up photos via your Photo Stream for the last 30 days.

Keep private files private: SpiderOak

  • 2GB
  • Android, iOS

This is a good option for personal files that you want to keep private. Your data is fully encrypted and can only be unlocked with your password, which SpiderOak doesn’t store. The zero knowledge privacy policy ensures that even staff physically accessing the storage servers can’t see your files. There are no file size limits and you can recover deleted files.

A little more free encrypted storage: Tresorit

  • 5GB (1GB per referral up to 16GB)
  • Android, iOS

This service also boasts client-side encryption, secure data transfer, and a zero knowledge policy on passwords. Sensitive photos or videos, and private documents will be safe and sound. It also has secure sharing with folders or encrypted links and 7 days of activity history. There’s no versioning with the free account and the file size limit is 0.5GB.

Upload files of any size: Cubby

  • 5GB (1GB per referral up to 25GB)
  • Android, iOS

Upload any file size and share it privately or publicly with Cubby. It also has versioning and client-side encryption. It has a client, offers Web browser access, and it’s very easy to use. Deleted files are automatically archived and can be restored, unless you permanently delete them or run out of space.

Most free storage of any service: ADrive

  • 50GB
  • Android, iOS

You can get an impressive 50GB for free with ADrive’s basic account. You can share folders or links and access and edit files online through your browser. You will see ads in your interface, but there’s a lack of additional features with the free account and it’s not recommended from a security point of view, so don’t use it to backup or share sensitive files.

As you can see there’s a lot of free cloud storage out there to be snapped up. Let us know if you recommend any other services that we haven’t mentioned.

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