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Best 5 free cloud storage services you may not know you had

The term “Cloud storage” may have only been popularized recently (Google Trends indicates it really picked up in 2011 (opens in new tab)), but the concept of storing data in the cloud has been around for much, much longer. Indeed, FTP (file transfer protocol), newsgroups, services like Yahoo! Briefcase and sending files to oneself by email have been around for donkey’s years.

The many reasons why Cloud Storage is now so popular are (a) free storage allowances have exploded (b) broadband has become mainstream (c) the cost of storage in the cloud has dived and (d) people have much more to upload – thanks partly to smartphones.

In theory, the number of people who have quasi-immediate access to free cloud storage is in the hundreds of millions but the overwhelming proportion possibly don’t even know that this is the case. Check out below five free cloud storage providers that are very widely available in the UK and could be very useful for small businesses.

BT Cloud Online

If you are one of the 6.6 million BT Broadband customers then you will have access to its BT Cloud service. BT Broadband, BT Unlimited Broadband, BT Infinity 1 and BT Unlimited Infinity 1 have 2GB while BT Unlimited Broadband Extra and BT Unlimited Infinity 2 get 50GB. You will need to proactively activate the service yourself and if you stop using the service for more than 90 days, BT will delete all your backed-up files. You can use BT Cloud to automatically synchronise backup for desktop or mobile devices. You can also upload single files via your smartphone as well as streaming video content (but not audio) from your BT Cloud solution to a device. Check out more about BT Cloud online storage here (opens in new tab).

Virgin Media Backup & Storage

Virgin Media introduced its Backup and Storage service as part of its V Stuff. It is no longer available to new customers but many of the current 4.27 million VM broadband users have access to it nonetheless. There are four aspects to it. There’s a backup app that automatically and securely backs up your computer files, there’s an adhoc storage space, a “photos” section where you can order prints and a sharing section to share backed up or stored files seamlessly. Those on the L broadband package get 5GB online storage, those on XL get 10GB while XXL customers get unlimited cloud-based storage. Existing Virgin Media customers can access their backup and storage application here (opens in new tab).

Google Drive

Are you one of the 425 million Gmail (or Google Apps) users worldwide? If yes, then you already have access to Google Drive. The free cloud storage and synchronization service is available on Windows, Chrome OS, Android, iOS and MacOSX. All users get 5GB of cloud storage data allowance, shared with online photo editing service, Picasa. That excludes storage used by the Gmail email service (which currently stands at just over 10.3GB) and Google Docs documents. Find out more about Google Drive here.

Microsoft Skydrive

Microsoft’s online services are currently going through a massive makeover with two flagships; Hotmail and Skydrive. Like for Google, anyone having a Microsoft account of any sort will have at least 7GB of free Skydrive account and those lucky enough to have signed before 22 April will get 25GB. The service uses HTML5 and files of up to 2GB can be hosted on the service. Other than Windows, Skydrive supports Android, iOS, Windows Phone and even Xbox 360 and, as for Google, you will be able to access and edit files originally produced by Microsoft Office using Office Web Apps. You can explore Skydrive and its features here.

Amazon Cloud Drive

Amazon has tens of millions customers worldwide and a fair few in the UK, all of whom already have access to Cloud Drive, the company’s consumer-focused online storage service. As expected, Cloud drive relies on Amazon’s own award winning S3 (Simple Storage Service) and provides with 5GB storage space for free. There’s a desktop application plus mobile apps for Android and Kindle. Also, as part of Cloud Player free, You can also import up to 250 songs for free (around 1GB worth of storage space) and Amazon MP3 purchases do not count against these limits. Read more about Amazon Cloud Drive here (opens in new tab).

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.