What is the Cost of “Free Storage?”

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There are numerous sites that offer free storage. These Internet-based sites provide storage space for data uploading and retrieval. The sites tend to offer different levels of service, with most of them having a basic service for free. These storage repositories range from a few hundred megabytes to several gigabytes.



As with most free things, there is usually some sort of a catch — most of the “free” services have at least one restriction, whether it is on the content that can be uploaded, file types, file size or bandwidth limitation. For a fee, these sites tend to offer less restrictive, larger storage capacity and bandwidth.



There seem to be a lot of similarities between Internet-based storage companies and early e-mail companies. Anyone who has signed up for a “free” e-mail address within the past few years might see similarities in today’s “free storage” and yesteryear “free e-mail.”



The services these e-mail companies originally provided drastically limited the size of file and storage capacity. E-mail has since expanded, offering larger mailboxes, file size and storage capacity. The future of storage probably will go the same route as technology cheapens and other companies pressure the businesses with larger offerings for “free.”



One of the greatest parts about “free” storage is it is free. You can use this Internet-based storage as a secondary site for backups and files commonly used but on different systems because this service happens to be Internet-based and in most cases available via any Web browser.



It is perfect to use this storage medium as a dumping ground for sharing, offloading and remote access, which makes it attractive to people with already congested systems. Several sites offer utilities and/or software to automate backing up files to the share.



Is It Always “Free?”



Free in that you are not paying a fee for the size of the data repository. Placing data with increase risk of security and identity challenges might cost you. Your information traversing the World Wide Web can have some repercussions. This is all based on what is placed on the storage space, and who might be able to see it — you might lose potential control of your content on this large data space.



Data that is stored and placed across the Internet can cost you. The amount can be measured only by the value you place on each item you upload. These sites tend to have no service level agreements for free customers, no guarantee and no warranty. They could even temporarily or even permanently close down the site with your data on it. How much value would you place on digital pictures, business information and/or personal information?



One of the more common complaints about these sites is throughput speed. Although the service does offer the space, the time it might take to upload and download can vary greatly. Users tend to complain about slow speeds accessing information.



What Does the Future Hold?



I carried a stack of floppies, which then turned into zip drives on to burnable CDs to transport information. Today, I have a 2-gigabyte USB that goes everywhere with me.



Will Internet-based storage replace my USB? I don’t think so, but I think it might complement the use of the USB drive. I might share documents between the Internet space and the USB but not replace either storage capacity. Today, the USB offers me quicker access and greater control. Will I back up my USB key to free storage? Sure, I have lost data on an USB drive, but there quick easy access with great speed makes them extremely useful.



The limits free storage vendors place eventually will lift or at least lighten. As the cost decreases to maintain and purchase the actual disk space, more users should adopt this way of storing data. Free storage potentially could offer freedom from the way data are stored today and continue to become bigger, as with any other service-based utility such as electricity, cable and phone.



As long as there is a demand for storage, Internet-based companies will find solutions that accommodate the customer’s needs while being able to p

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