Today I was going through some things from when I attended college in the late 1980s and found some old five-and-a-quarter inch computer data storage discs. It reminded me of how data storage has changed over the years. My first computer was a Vic 20 and its data was stored on a tape cassette.

There have been many iterations of data storage since then, however today, just about everyone who uses a computer or mobile device has some of their data in the cloud. In fact, it’s possible today to work with all your files and data in the cloud.

Cloud-based storage services include two primary types of options: internet-based services and personal clouds.

In the area of internet-based services, there are four primary leaders: iCloud Drive, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.

iCloud Drive is pre-installed on all Mac and iOS devices, and is available for Windows devices. Those owning a Mac or iOS device can get five gigs of free storage, and can purchase more from about $1 for 50 gigs a month, up to one terabyte for about $10 per month. The storage is shared, however, between all of your iCloud compatible devices, whose data counts against your total, including backups of your iPhone or iPad along with your iCloud email and photo library.

Dropbox only stores files, without automatically syncing any data, and can be used on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Mac, Windows, and Linux devices. When installed on a computer, Dropbox creates a folder and keeps it in sync with all your other devices. Files can also be accessed from the web. It provides shared folders, and the ability to send someone a link to a file you have stored there. You get two gigs of free storage, that can be bumped up to one terabyte of storage for about $10 a month.

Google Drive also provides web as well as computer folder based file access. It allows you to collaborate with others on documents by sharing them for viewing or editing, and can be used on Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, and Chromebook devices. It provides a generous 15 gigs for free, though that also includes the data storage for your Google apps, Gmail account, Google Photos, etc. Additional storage can be purchased at about $2 per month for 100 gigs up to 30 terabytes a month for $300, with several increments in between.

Microsoft OneDrive too provides web and computer folder based file access. Files can be accessed through apps on Mac, Windows, iOS, Windows Phone, and Android devices. The service offers five gigs for free, with the option to buy 50 gigs for $2 per month. For those with an Office 365 subscription, there are additional options such as one terabyte of storage at the bargain price of $7 a month.

In the area of personal cloud systems, My Cloud by Western Digital, and the Personal Cloud by Seagate, are leaders. These systems require an external hard drive for storage, that is attached to your computer or network. This comes with a web-based login that allows you to access your files from any computer or device, via the internet, no matter where you are.

Seagate offers units that range from three terabytes for around $140, up to eight terabytes for about $750. My Cloud products start at two terabytes for about $140, up to eight terabytes for $300. Some advantages of personal clouds are that you can choose a product that meets your storage needs at a one-time price, avoiding the monthly charges as well as the price hikes that sometimes happen with the web-based cloud storage services.

For many people there is no perfect choice, and often, a combination of these services will best meet their needs. I personally use all of these services and formats, for differing purposes. I recommend exploring all of these options, to find out which best meet your needs.

John Redmond-Palmer can be reached at