As data management has gotten faster and cheaper, cloud storage has exploded. This industry is expected to keep growing for years to come. Cloud-based platforms are convenient, secure, and inexpensive (or even free). In fact, you likely already use cloud-based platforms without even realizing it. Take those PDF contracts you signed with your business partners, the social media campaigns you track for your business, or the personal photos you routinely back up. They're stored on servers that are miles away and can be accessed at any point, from any device.
Both personal cloud storage and enterprise cloud storage work in much the same way, housing your files in a secure, faraway server. Content is ready when you need access, giving you a more flexible way to manage your files. Uploading your data to the cloud offers easy backups, transfers between devices, and includes many other benefits. Let's take a closer look at what free cloud storage can do for you, whether you're looking into storage for personal use, to get a business off the ground, or to support an entire organization.
Cloud storage refers to data stored in an off-site server and delivered on demand to your devices, including phones, tablets, and laptops. It can support a variety of file types, from work documents and photos to videos and application-specific design files. Both businesses and individuals rely on cloud storage to back up their data, access files from any device, and easily share files.
Remember when you had to download photos onto a CD or flash drive in order to share them? That's an example of local storage. Today, when storing photos using the cloud, you instead upload them via the internet to a massive data center. That data center, which could theoretically be anywhere but is usually somewhere in your geographic region, is run by experts who safeguard your data and enable efficient delivery.
When you want to access your data, you log into your cloud provider's platform and request access to the file. This is typically as easy as clicking on a thumbnail or the name of the file — and voila! The 1s and 0s of computer code send your photo over in an instant. Generally, the file is encrypted before it reaches you, for added security.
Cloud storage offers simplicity and ease of use in today's on-the-go world where you might need access to your data at any place and any time. Just because you're not "at your computer" doesn't mean you can't grab the files you need. Enterprise and personal cloud storage can also give you a variety of helpful features, like real-time collaboration, high-end security, and third-party integrations.
The best and most secure cloud-storage solutions provide additional features and benefits aside from simply storing your files. Cloud file-storage can be a valuable tool for work, academics, and personal life with secure, easy-to-use, reliable characteristics.
Some of the benefits and capabilities of online data storage include:
With secure online file storage, your files are all held in a professionally managed data center with teams of data professionals that keep everything secure. This is one of the biggest reasons the cloud offers such extensive security.
Public cloud storage is also typically more secure than private data centers, according to 75% of IT professionals. Cloud data centers are run by teams of experts and are dedicated exclusively to the performance and security of data.
Of course, cloud storage security may vary from provider to provider, which is why you must ensure your online storage option is trustworthy and reliable. At Box, we employ enterprise-level security aligned with compliance requirements for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and Good Practice (GxP) guidelines, among those from other regulatory agencies. You can also set up flexible controls and granular permissions to protect your data as people within your organization share and collaborate.
You need access to a file, but you're not near your computer. Or the office is locked. Or your hard drive has a USB port, but your phone doesn't — and that's where you need to pull up the file. You find yourself running to the electronics store to buy a cable.
These are all problems of the past. The cloud removes those frustrations entirely, saving you time and money. Cloud storage solutions can grant access to content from just about anywhere, at any time. You simply need a device and an internet connection.
Now, you can grab a file whenever you want with the device you already carry 24/7. Last-minute flight delay? Not a problem. You've got your project documents on hand and can get some work done. Sudden mandate to work-from-home? No biggie — everything's in the cloud. For small business owners, you no longer need to lug around paper purchase orders and contracts in a briefcase, or try to keep track of that thumb drive in your laptop bag. And for students, storing assignments and notes in the cloud means you don't need to lug around notebooks and folders that could get lost. A laptop or tablet is all you need.
Many cloud storage services offer a free version for casual individual use. If you're a file-heavy user, moving up to greater storage capacities and capabilities comes at affordable monthly prices.
The free storage space available with a Box Individual plan makes cloud data storage accessible to anyone with an internet connection. With this plan, you get up to 10 gigabytes (GB) of storage with maximum file sizes of 250 megabytes for free. If you need more than that, you can upgrade to a Personal Pro plan that has up to 100GB of storage and a 5GB maximum file size. Working on a team or looking for more business-centric capabilities? We also have enterprise-grade plans with additional core-business features and unlimited storage space.
Cloud file sharing is a valuable part of any cloud service. If you've ever tried to share a large video or other file over text or email, you know how annoying it can be. Your video gets compressed to a low-quality version, or your email server is overloaded with version after version of a file as your coworkers or classmates collaborate. Cloud storage solutions make it easy to share files, regardless of size or type, without taking up server space.
You can quickly send over a link, even to large files, so recipients can access the file without the need to download or deal with file compression. Your videos and photos stay crisp, and you don't have to wait for a file to transmit over a weak cellular connection. Another valuable aspect of file-sharing through the cloud is the ability to share entire folders, which is useful for sharing photo collections and well-organized files.
Online data storage makes sharing simple. Whether you need to share photos or send important documents, the best cloud services support easy sharing.
Collaboration is essential in almost any environment — work, school, even business projects such as managing contract orders. Simple permissions tools and real-time updates make it easy for multiple parties to work together and stay on the same page.
With Box, you control permissions by user, with access to previous versions, so you maintain the integrity of your files. Your collaborators work through the intuitive Box interface, and simple file management makes it easy to sift through a large number of files during complex projects. With Box Notes, real-time editing, and third-party integrations with tools like Microsoft 365 and Zoom, you can level up your collaboration capabilities.
Cloud storage services are infinitely scalable. If you need additional storage space, you can always add more.
The same is true for scaling down: If you clean things up and find you don't need as much space as you're paying for, you can always reduce the amount of space you're using. You might be fine using your free 10GB for most of the year, but as you amass more files or need to accommodate large projects, you have the option to scale your service up or down. Scalability is great on a personal level, and it's especially handy for businesses, which may have fluctuations based on seasonal demand.
File loss can come from many different sources, including broken or lost devices and data destruction. Devices don't last forever, and broken phones and busted laptops can make your data inaccessible. A broken phone can mean more than being without a communication device for a while. It can also mean losing precious photos or important files that haven't been backed up.
Cloud storage services can automatically back up your files and keep them safe, regardless of the condition of your device. This applies to everything from family photos stored on your phone to critical datasets on your work laptop.
Just as you might break a device, it's pretty easy to lose those little flash drives. Fortunately, you can't lose the cloud. And from the cloud, you can always access your data from another device.
In fact, since the cloud is accessible from any device, you still have access to your data even if it's erased or lost from a single device due to a technical issue. Another bonus of backing up your data in the cloud is that you can save space on your device. You can store your photos in the cloud to make more room for apps and music on your phone, or keep your work documents in the cloud so they don't eat up space on your home computer. If you're short on hard drive space, the cloud is a great solution.
8. Centralized data
If you're using a variety of different sources, like a hard drive here and a phone there, your data is scattered across different storage spaces with varying access requirements for each. You may need different passwords for each device or specific cables to connect physical data storage devices. It's an inefficient system that can get confusing if you don't remember which files are where.
Cloud file-storage centralizes all your information in one place. It offers easy access with one set of login credentials. It can speed up work activities and make personal organization much easier.
At Box, we offer an easy-to-use interface for intuitive file management. Our centralized data platform makes file management simple.
Cloud-based storage works with many types of data and provides benefits for work, study, and play. Users can:
- Collaborate on next week's big presentation with fellow coworkers or classmates
- Back up important files, including business and personal documents (such as contracts and POs), to a secure location
- Organize a massive collection of files into one central location
- Organize research articles and resources for a project that can be worked on spontaneously, from anywhere
- Upload a travel itinerary and pull it up later on a phone
- Store and share photos for personal and business use
However you opt to use the cloud, you'll reap benefits that range from better organization to workplace efficiency. The cloud holds big benefits for students, office workers, parents, and anyone who wants to safely access their files from anywhere and back them up.
Free and paid cloud storage are similar and generally use the same platforms. The difference typically lies in how much data can be stored and uploaded, as well as what kinds of additional features may be available. Paid services are likely to add more gigabytes of storage to your account and allow you to upload larger files. Paid cloud storage is often organized into tiers to allow you to select the right amount of storage for your needs without paying more than necessary.
Free cloud storage is a great way to store a light or moderate amount of data or try out a program. With cloud storage that's free, you'll still get all the security and most of the functionality of the paid version, just with smaller file limits. These plans are great for individuals looking to store photos or documents for everyday life. They're good for backups, collaboration needs, and easy sharing and access.
If you have a lot of files or are working with a team, a paid plan might be a better option. At Box, paid versions include features such as saving multiple versions of a file and built-in integrations with 1,500+ apps (such as Microsoft 365 and Google Suite). Many artists, such as graphic designers and video editors, along with small businesses, take advantage of these features in their work, as do many people working in teams.
Box is a competitive player in the personal cloud storage market, offering many best-in-show features, like mobile app integrations and online editing, along with free storage options and large file-size maximums. The free version of Box — called the Individual plan — comes with up to 10GB of storage and maximum file sizes of 250MB. Upgrades to 100GB of storage and 5GB file sizes are available for low monthly costs.
All versions support numerous file types, including photos, documents, videos, presentations, spreadsheets, and design files, and come with important integrations such as Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, Adobe, and more. These files can be accessed by multiple users and shared easily. The Box platform, also known as the Content Cloud, is available on phones, laptops, desktops, and tablets. It works within your computer's native file organizer, whether that's Windows Explorer or Mac Finder, for a seamless experience.
Box is one of the leading players in the cloud storage industry, with trusted security and powerful features available to paid and free customers, at prices on par with or better than much of the competition.
The Box Individual plan goes beyond personal cloud storage
The best cloud storage option for you should have the right mix of features to help you meet your goals and make the most of file organization.
The Box Individual plan has a wide range of features that complement the experience and ramp up your capabilities. Users can improve productivity, collaborate with coworkers, get peace of mind that their content is protected, and add convenience to their workdays with the Content Cloud. Some of these valuable features include:
Box uses enterprise-level security for all our customers, free or paid. Our frictionless security is seamless, with AES 256-bit encryption on every file and full visibility where needed. The importance of security applies to personal and business use, so your personal tax documents and top-secret business documents are kept safe, regardless of what type of account you have.
The Box Individual plan gives you collaboration capabilities that you won't find in every cloud storage service. With Box, real-time updates make it easy to work together quickly and efficiently. Box Notes even allows for real-time note-taking where users can see each other's edits immediately.
Third-party integrations add simplicity to many tasks, like linking up with your Adobe design files or sending a spreadsheet straight from Microsoft Excel. Box has 1,500+ integrations available. Share your Box files directly through Zoom messenger, provision and deprovision Box accounts based on Active Directory Security Groups in Okta, and collaborate on Google Docs with Box as your single source of truth.
The many integrations offered make it easy to enjoy extraordinary convenience without sacrificing security. These integrations can help people close deals faster, collaborate more effectively, and improve documentation practices. Maintain your content's centralization and support productivity with high-impact integrations that benefit your workflows.
4. Seamless and versatile use options
We made Box easy to use and accessible from any device. It works on apps, web browsers, native file-searching applications, and application programming interfaces (APIs). The interface is intuitive and simple to navigate for efficient file management wherever you are.
If you're looking for the best free cloud storage, the Box Individual plan is an excellent choice. Our free online storage solution delivers wide-reaching features and solutions for an array of use cases, all at the low price of free — or affordable monthly plans.
The upgrade option: Compliance
At Box, we take compliance seriously — and regardless of the choice you make, all our plans are backed by enterprise-grade security. However, if you need additional compliance (especially to meet regulations like HIPAA, GDPR, GxP, or FINRA), you can upgrade to other Box business plans to meet those needs.
Start using Box for free
If you want to see how one of the best online storage solutions works in your day-to-day life, try the Box Individual plan for free today. You'll get access to our industry-leading Content Cloud and up to 10GB of storage, with all the security and convenience of our paid Box plans, at no cost to you.
Box is a trusted cloud service provider to over 100,000 organizations, and we're growing every day. Our position as an industry leader makes us one of the most reliable cloud providers on the market, with security and uptime you can depend on. Convenient and easy-to-use personal and professional cloud storage makes Box the whole package.