Monday, March 22, 2010

Dropbox, LiveMesh, and ZumoDrive! Free cloud storage for the masses.

How did we ever do without cloud storage???

I've been a long time user of GetDropbox and have recently begun using ZumoDrive and Windows LiveMesh/SkyDrive and am very impressed with how useful and easy to use they are.  Before GetDropbox, I was an AOL XDrive user (pre-closure) and prior to that I minimally used Yahoo Briefcase!  Dropbox, LiveMesh, and ZumoDrive are must-haves and are much easier to use than any other free service so far.  MS and Google also offer some document specific services via Office Live SkyDrive and Google Docs storage offerings.  These are more limited regarding synchronization, supported file types, and ease of use.  However, they do offer more free storage and free versions of document editing/viewing applications.

LiveMesh is Microsoft's folder synchronization application that supports syncing to the SkyDrive cloud storage system as well as PC to PC.  It is packaged as part of Windows Live essentials which also includes the extremely useful Windows Live Photo Gallery (facial recognition tagging).  All for Free!
How They Work
  • Each service provides a limited amount of free online storage.  Some offer extra space for referrals (GetDropBox) or for running through the tutorial.  Extra storage is also available for a reasonable monthly fee.
  • The storage is automatically synced directly to a drive or folder on your computer or select smartPhones via a downloadable application which integrates into the OS.
    • Working on files offline will sync once connected
    • No manual intervention required
    • SkyDrive's sync app is called LiveMesh
  • On public terminals or without the application, you can still access the files via their web sites.
  • A few versions of each document are stored by each service to keep track of changes and roll-back accidental saves.
    • Currently, ZumoDrive keeps unlimited versions.
    • LiveMesh does not version.
  • You can share the files with friends or the public as desired (Think FTP).  This is very handy for CraigsList posts, linking to a file instead of attaching it to an email, etc.
The Differences
  • ZumoDrive currently offers larger paid plans but GetDropbox is slightly less expensive for its upgraded plan.  SkyDrive (LiveMesh) offers the most free space
    • Prices and plans will probably even out in the future.
  • GetDropbox adds a folder to your MyDocuments folder, whereas ZumoDrive adds a fixed drive letter
    • ZumoDrive shows how much space is remaining as the disc size.
  • ZumoDrive offers unlimited Versioning, whereas GetDropBox is limited, LiveMesh does not version (SkyDrive can version select doc types, but no integration with LiveMesh)
  • LiveMesh has some exclusive bonuses
    • Internet Explorer favorites/bookmark synchronization
    • Unlimited file/folder synchronization between connected computers/devices
      • This is great for those big videos that are too large for the cloud storage solution
Some other must-have cloud solutions
  • Favorites / Bookmarks
    • Live Mesh Favorites synchronization
    • Google Bookmarks
      • With Toolbar and List integration
  • Image/Photo storage
    • Shutterfly
      • My Preferred since full quality images are retrievable via a Backup DVD purchase and full quality images are saved
    • Too many to list. :)
  • Events and Invitations
    • Facebook
    • Evite
    • Pingg
    • Meetup
    • Sportsvite
  • Social Networking
    • Facebook
    • LinkedIn
    • Google+
  • Online Documents/Collaboration
    • Office Live SkyDrive (Office Web Apps)
    • Google Docs
    • Google Lists
    • Office 365 / BPOS / Microsoft Office Online (Pay Service)
      • SharePoint, Exchange, Communicator/Lync, and Live Meeting
      • When you need collaboration for a small to medium sized office/group
      • Includes Office Web Apps
      • Priced per user with a minimum of 5

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