Cloud storage is a perfect way to back up your data in a safe and more casual way than creating physical backups yourself and taking them to a second location.
It’s not 100% fool-proof, and still requires you to stick to a schedule (which can be automated) to make sure your backups are up to date, but in comparison to all of the other ways you can store or backup files, the cloud is by far the easiest and most effective.
Once you’ve chosen the best cloud storage provider for your needs, there’s still one more important question you’ll need to answer, and that’s “How much cloud storage space is right for me?”
It might seem like an obvious question with an obvious answer, but you’re wise for thinking about this before making your decision and ordering storage, and it might even have you circling back to consider a different provider. Here are some things you’ll want to consider before making a final decision...
If you have a fairly static amount of files that you need to back up and you won’t be adding too much to it on a regular basis in terms of new files, you have a rough idea about your storage needs already, but you’ll want to take our next point into consideration still because it can have an impact.
If, however, you are frequently adding new files to your backup routine, in particular if these are larger files, then your storage needs will be growing at a faster pace, so you’ll want to choose a cloud storage solution with some extra space baked in, and one that offers the ability to easily scale up your plan.
Still, you might not want to go too overboard and to end up paying for a bunch of space before you need it. It’s all about finding a balance, and the only way to do that is to know what your provider offers, and how easy or difficult they make it to scale up.
With so many cloud storage providers out there right now, and a healthy shortlist of the very best cloud storage providers, you’ve got options, so understand those options. Look at their pricing pages, and compare their available plans to what your needs are.
In some cases, you can save a lot of money by trimming down your files a bit to fit into a lower plan. In other cases, some providers will have a storage limit in one tier that fits your needs perfectly while giving you some wiggle room, whereas others may fall just short.
This echoes something we’ve touched on already. If your collection of files is constantly growing, you’ll want to size-up a bit and grow into it. If it’s more or less static, you can predict your monthly and yearly costs a lot easier and choose the plan that is closest to your needs at the best rate.
It’s good to give yourself some wiggle room, especially if you aren’t entirely sure what your needs may be in six months from now, not to mention in a few years or longer, or even if you want to upload a big file to pass to a friend or family member. The leaders in this field are showing no signs of disappearing, so you’ll likely be just fine in choosing any of them for the long-term.
Let’s say Sync.com were to disappear overnight (doubtful), it’s hard to imagine that a competitor wouldn’t step up to fill their shoes, and that they wouldn’t offer a very easy way to migrate your files over, so it’s not really something to lose sleep over.
With smaller or less reputable providers, it could possibly cause issues, but once again - you can only do so much to plan for the unexpected. Sticking with the more respected brands drastically decreases the chances of waking up to find a “closed” sign on the internet-door of your provider.
It’s nice to have some extra space in case you wake up one day and your harddrive is making a weird sound, and you want to quickly have a place to back everything up while you replace your drive (hopefully before it fails!), and then simply download everything into your new local drive. This can be easier and much faster than trying to clone a drive to another drive you probably don't even have on hand.
Other factors that could impact your choice are transfer speeds, especially if you need to access your files on a regular basis. If you’re using a provider like Dropbox where you have the option to keep a local version of your files and changes are uploaded to your cloud in the background, the transfer speed might not matter as much since you already have access to your files.
If your storage provider becomes cost-prohibitive at any point, you can always migrate to another cloud storage provider, but this brings with it a new set of challenges and things to keep in mind. If you have limited local storage, you’ll need to to a cloud-to-cloud migration where you use a 3rd party service to send your files from one cloud storage drive to another. This process can be costly when you’re dealing with large files, so it’s usually best to research how well your account will scale.
Some people will choose to use entry-level plans with multiple companies, but this adds in some extra “running around” that complicates things, so you’ll have to ask yourself if it’s worth the hassle (typically not), or if it’s cheaper and easier to just stick with a larger account with one provider, not to mention the dodging the giant headache of bouncing from app to app to find the file you're looking for.
Several free-tier accounts can do the trick in some cases, but again, there’s still certain non-monetary costs that come with trying to run multiple free accounts instead of paying for what you need.
It’s not as simple as just saying “Okay, I have X amount of data that I need to store/backup, so I’m going to buy that exact amount of cloud storage.” In practice, for many people, it’s really not all that much more complicated than that, either, as long as you’re taking your future needs and your budget into consideration.
When it’s all said and done, if you’ve chosen a reputable storage company and you’re aware of what plans they have for you to grow into as time passes, you’re all set to order and to start protecting your data immediately. Some will let you scale the amount of storage offered to a level between tiers once you're already a customer.
By planning ahead just a tiny bit as outlined in this guide, you can avoid certain potential headaches down the road, but ultimately the best decision you can make is the one that allows you to get your files in a safe place as soon as possible. You can always figure out the growing pains down the road, nothing here is written in stone. It’s just a matter of how much leeway you want to give yourself for making changes as your storage needs evolve.
You can often save money by locking into a yearly commitment, but make sure this gives you the option to pro-rate your plan if you decide to upgrade when you need more space. There are advantages and disadvantages to yearly vs monthly plans, but we’ll save that for another day.