Everyone has files that they consider to be important (in many cases, priceless), but most people don't do anything to ensure the safety and protection of these files. I am not going to discuss why you should do this (it should be obvious) but I will talk about some free options available to you.
I will go over some of my favorite online storage websites and discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of each. Each of the sites I talk about are going to offer free services (yep; I am cheap that way).
Most people would not think about this as online storage but photos and images are perhaps the number one file type that people backup or share online.
Focus: Sharing Photos - Facebook really is not a great way for backing up for storage.
Pros: Facebook seems to offer an unlimited(?) amount of space available for photos. Facebook never has announced a storage limit and I have certainly done my fair share trying to find out by uploading thousands of photos. Facebook is also great for sharing because almost everyone uses it. The image viewer is not the best, but we can assume it will continue to get better.
Cons: Until recently, Facebook has always scaled down the images uploaded. They now offer higher resolution. There is still no easy way to download more than one photo a time. While it might be great to use to let people SEE your photos, it is not a good option, if you want them to be able to have or download your photos.
Photo Sharing Sites In General (Picasa, Flickr, Photobucket and hundreds of others)
These are similar enough that I will lump them all into the same category. You can check out Lifehacker's review if you want more details.
Focus: Photo Sharing and storage
Pros: Easily share links with others for them to download your original resolution folders. View photos in a slideshow. Search for other photos.
Cons: Limited storage space. Most of these sites only offer around 2gb for file storage. That is decent, but fills up quickly if you are a normal person and want to share all of your pictures with everyone.
Mozy is one of the big names. This is the only file storage company I have ever seen an actual ad for.
Focus: Automated Backup
Pros: They make backup easy. Since backup is automated, you only have to set it up once and not worry about backing up consistently. Mozy does it for you. Great if you have important files that you are constantly updating.
Cons: You must use their upload client for backup. For Linux users like me, this means I am out of luck. Limited to 2gb for their free account. For me, this is not significant to be useful. It can't backup all my photos or music files. The only thing this would be able to backup for me is text files and I use Google Docs for that. Which brings us to...
Until recently, this was only only for text files.
Focus: Document editing, sharing and backup.
Pros: Google docs is king when it comes to online document editing (ok. zoho is good too). There are so, so many advantages of using Google docs for writing your documents. Using Google docs means your files are secure and password protected, easily editable, easy to share, accessible from any computer with the internet and stored on some of the best servers in the world. I feel comfortable knowing that if my house were to burn down today, my priceless documents would be safe. Google Docs now allows you to upload just about any type of file. Sharing is easy, especially if you are sharing with another Gmail users. Because Google Docs is tied to your Gmail account, everyone should have access to Google Docs (if you DON'T have Gmail yet. You really should get it. It is about time your email address firstname.lastname@example.org is retired). There are many other Pros about Google Docs that I won't bother talking about. Needless to say, there are many reasons I love Google.
Cons: Though I find Google Docs to be the most useful for file storage, it is also perhaps the most limiting in terms of storage space. About 1gb.
By far one of the most popular file syncing methods.
Focus: File Syncing and automated backup.
Pros: Unlike Mozy, Dropbox is available for EVERYTHING. Windows, Mac, Linux and mobile. Everyone can use Dropbox. Dropbox automatically backs up files in the folder you specify. Not only does is back up the files, but it syncs the files on any and all computers you have setup with Dropbox. If you have files you are constantly using or editing, Dropbox will be one of your best options. Dropbox also makes sharing files with others super easy.
Cons: Just like Google Docs, great functionality means less storage space. Unfortunately this is the case with Dropbox as it only allows 2gb of storage. This makes Dropbox mostly useful for transferring or sharing files.
Similar to Dropbox.
Focus: Storage and online document creation and editing.
Pros: Offers more storage space than Dropbox (5gb). Has different uploading features. Offers document creation, editing and sharing.
Cons: While 5gb is better than Dropbox, it is still not sufficient if you want to backup much more than documents. 5gb might be enough for some people's photo collections. If you want syncing features similar to Dropbox then you will have to pay money for this as it is a premium feature.
This is the online storage I have been using the longest.
Focus: Storage space.
Pros: If you are looking for an option that allows plenty of free storage space, this is it. Adrive offers 50gb for free. Adrive also allows file sharing. If you need to share a zip file of thousands of pictures, this is a great way to go.
Cons: Adrive offers many other great features like FTP and automated backup, but these are only features for paying members. Sharing times out after a certain amount of time, so if you share a file with someone, they will have to download it relatively soon or it may not be available until you share it again.
Aside from having a somewhat odd (though surprisingly descriptive) name, this is a fairly new player in the online storage world.
Focus: Storage space. Media viewing and sharing.
Pros: Easy and bulk uploading. Allows mp3 listening and photo viewing; also allows you to embed MP3 playlists or image slideshows that you can use on your blog or website. Gives you
Cons: It is a new site and seems to have a few hiccups from what I have experience so far (these most likely will be worked out soon). No apparent automated backup.
Some Final Thoughts:
With so many options for online backup, you have no excuse (except laziness) not to do it. Loosing important files can be devastating.
I have seen different file storage sites come and go. The sites I have listed seem to be in it for the long haul, but you never know what can happen in the future. It is a good idea to possibly use more than one option.
Found another good site or have another suggestion? Share it as a comment!