I have written a number of times about various online file storage providers and why every computer user, especially genealogists, should be using at least one of these services to store critical files off site for safekeeping. It seems as if every time I write about some file storage service’s new, low-priced offering, a competitive service soon announces an even cheaper plan. That has now happened again. This time the plans are for UNLIMITED storage space. Yes, unlimited. Fill ‘er up.
Amazon now has two UNLIMITED storage plans for its consumer cloud-based storage service, Amazon Cloud Drive. This represents a massive price reduction for its giant hard-drive in the sky. If you are an Amazon Prime member (which I have used since that service was first introduced, and it saves me a lot of money every year), the first service is called the Unlimited Photos plan and costs $11.99 per year. This plan will appeal to professional photographers, advanced amateur photographers, and anyone who simply has lots of digital pictures that need to be safely stored off site. A price of about $1 a month strikes me as very attractive. Where are your backup photos of your grandchildren?
The Unlimited Photos plan not only includes unlimited, secure photo storage but adds ANOTHER 5 gigabytes of free storage for videos and other files at no extra cost. Here is a chance to safely store a lifetime of birthdays, vacations, holidays, and everyday moments across numerous devices.
Amazon Cloud Drive also offers apps to install in Android devices or Apple iPhones and iPads to automatically save all new photos immediately, as soon as an Internet connection becomes available. Called Auto-Save, these apps will keep your photos safe in your Cloud Drive, even if your phone or tablet is later lost or damaged.
The second service is similar, but more, in a service that is simply called Unlimited Storage. For $59.99 per year, Amazon will store UNLIMITED files of all sorts: photos, genealogy databases, all your email messages for the past ten years, your checkbook and banking statements, the MP3 music files you have collected, and anything else you wish. That is a monthly cost of $5, making it almost worthwhile paying for the service irrespective of how much cloud-based storage you actually need. You can’t buy a multi-gigabyte disk drive for that price. Even if you choose to pay more and buy a large capacity hard drive, it won’t be as reliable as Amazon Cloud Drive.
To compare Amazon’s offerings to some of its competitors, Dropbox for Business offers unlimited storage space but at much higher prices. Microsoft offers a business user-focused service with unlimited storage space for those who subscribe to Office 365. In contrast, Amazon Cloud Drive does not require the purchase of any specific software as a condition to using its service. If you already have an Office 365 subscription, then the Microsoft offering becomes very attractive.
Admittedly, storing a few gigabytes of digital files will require weeks of data transfers, even on the fastest broadband Internet connection offered by cable companies and fiber optic companies. However, the process can work in background, and you can still use your computer for other purposes while the files are copied to Amazon’s servers 24 hours a day. For those with large movie files, games, and so on, this is where “unlimited” really starts to shine, and $5/month is a really ridiculous price point.
There’s also a free three-month trial available to see how much “unlimited” space you actually need and for what. If you upload a few gigabytes over the three-month period and then decide you do not wish to continue with the service, simply cancel and pay nothing. Amazon will delete your stored data soon after you cancel.
I like the idea of saving all sorts of stuff to cloud services such as Amazon Cloud Drive not only for the safety of having backup copies of everything, but also for the convenience of having everything available on any device: on the desktop computer, the laptop, the tablet computer, and even on a smartphone. I back up almost everything: pictures, genealogy data, email messages, insurance policies, prescriptions, recipes, the measurement of my windows (I am shopping for new curtains), the next scheduled oil change in the automobile, and all sorts of other minutia that we all encounter in daily living.
“Oh, you want a copy of my vegan chili recipe? Here. I’ll email it to you from my smartphone that connects to the cloud where I have gigabytes of data and pictures stored.”
Amazon Photos is available as a free mobile app for iOS and Android. It is also built into the Amazon Fire phone. You can create more storage space on your phone, enjoy automatic photo backup, and see your Cloud Drive photos and videos. To see all of the contents of your Cloud Drive on the go, Amazon Cloud Drive is also available for iOS and Android. Amazon Cloud Drive applications are also available for Windows and Macintosh.
All the files are stored using Amazon’s world-class security and protection to keep all content safe from prying eyes, even if your phone, tablet, or computer is lost or damaged. However, I always add EXTRA encryption for my more sensitive documents. I always encrypt them FIRST on my own hard drive, just in case my home computer or laptop is ever stolen or hacked into. I had a laptop stolen from the trunk of my automobile a few years ago, and the thief gained access to a lot of my personal information. That won’t happen again because those files are now encrypted on all my own hard drives. A future thief won’t be able to read them. Of course, when I copy those already-encrypted files to Amazon Cloud Drive or to any other cloud-based file storage service, that creates double encryption. I consider this to be the digital equivalent of a belt and suspenders.
Is this the cheapest online storage service? Yes, at least for today. I have no idea what tomorrow’s announcements will be.