Have you ever tried to e-mail a file or series of files only to find out that one or more of them is too large? And, of course, you receive a snotty message from your provider telling you it’s too big. The folks here at TM are always on the lookout for a way around such matters. Why? Because, quite frankly, it makes our lives that much easier.  We probably ought to add an official step into our design process stating we’re looking to make your life easier, too. We’re just that considerate. Now, when it comes to larger files, sending them or storing them, things have started to move away from the traditional set-up using hard drives on our personal computers and into internet-based storage, called “The Cloud” services. Are they any good, though?

It probably helps to start at the beginning. First, what is “The Cloud”? Essentially, The Cloud is technology that is accessed via the Web and is hosted by the third party. For instance, when you use Google Docs to create, compose, edit and save a document, you are using a form of Cloud technology. What makes The Cloud so efficient and effective is the fact that users are not using their own personal, physical hard-drive space, freeing up space to be used for running applications and allowing the computer to use less resources. Also, it allows users to access all their Cloud-stored files from any computer with an internet connection.

The most popular and efficient online-storage service right now is Dropbox, which according to Mashable, raised $250 million and sports over 45 million users. I’ve been using Dropbox for months and it’s made my online life a lot easier. I use it as my proverbial thumb drive, which is good because I always seem to lose mine. But I can’t lose the internet! It’s always there, which is why Dropbox and other services like it are so much more efficient than the standard thumb drive.

Dropbox is not the lone Cloud service out there, though. There are also Google Docs, Box.net and Apple’s new iCloud service just to name a few. All of them have the same basic premise, but Dropbox is the one I prefer most. It makes sharing and transporting files extremely easy. If I’m working on a project for work and there are other contributing to it,  I can create a folder and share it with people via email, allowing them to download the folder’s contents as well as upload to it. Best of all, I can use it to back up all my important documents so that if I ever need to access them immediately–there they are. Also, unlike iCloud, I can upload any files I wish. ICloud has a policy that the video and music stored on Apple’s servers must have been purchased from iTunes, so if you discover an old CD from 1998 you want to save to iCloud–you’re out of luck.

Another thing that sets Dropbox apart from its competitors are its smartphone applications. Dropbox offers apps for both the iPhone’s App Store and the Android Market, and both are sleek, easy to use and self explanatory. And when you join, you get two gigabytes of storage free and can purchase more if needed.  Or, if you get people to sign up for DropBox via a referral, you can earn more storage space that way, too. So if you’re looking for a Cloud-based storage system, Dropbox is your best choice.

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