Best free online storage solutions

So Amazon Cloud Drive has arrived to a sudden but very interesting fanfare. The only trouble, of course, is that it’s just our lucky American readers who get to try it out for the foreseeable future. But folks in Europe and the rest of the world need not turn green with envy. There are other ways to store your assortment of music, videos, images and whatever else you care keep up there on the Internet and all for free as well.

While not all offer quite the same as a cloud-based music player and a whole 25GB to play with, there are one or two that, in fact, give you even more storage to play with. So, from the smallest to the biggest, here are a few other online storage solutions for those waiting for the Amazon Cloud Drive to come knocking at their postcode.

Google Docs - 1GB

Anyone who signs up for a Gmail address is entitled to start using Google Docs where, as well as create spreadsheets, presentations and documents, you can also upload images and videos as well. You get a total of 1GB of space for all non-Google Docs created or converted files. So, in other words, you can have up to the maximum of multimedia and still sit and keep all the work files you need after that.

It’s not a huge amount of space given that a feature length HD movie is probably going to break the bank but it’s not a bad start for something you’ve probably already signed up for anyway. You can always add on another gigabyte of space for an extra $0.25/year. It’s not a lot but it can add up if you start relying on it. If you really want to get inventive, though, then it’s also worth pointing out that your Gmail account comes with up to 8GB of mail storage as well. What you can do is attach your files to draft e-mails which you never send. Name them after the file and then you have a way of searching them too. It’s not ideal but it works.

MozyHome - 2GB

A more dedicated and initially more generous online storage option is the long time and trusted service that is MozyHome. Sign up for a free account and you get 2GB, decent encryption and even some desktop back-up software to download as well.

Naturally, you won’t be able to perform a full copy of your computer’s data with just 2GB of space but, again, you’re welcome to sign up to £4.99/month for more space. Oddly, the company website doesn’t actually tell you how much more space paying customers are entitled to, so perhaps not the best choice if you intend to part with your cash for the privilege.

Dropbox - 2GB

We can’t speak highly enough of Dropbox here at Pocket-lint. Granted, 2GB of storage isn’t a lot in the world of cloud file keeping but it’s the bells and whistles that make this service such a pleasure to use. For the fully skinny (the fatty?) take a look at our review of the service or just the quick guide but, in a nutshell, it’s online storage that you can access from a folder on your computer desktop as well as going to the Dropbox website itself.

Best of all, you can share your folder, or sub-folders within it, with friends such that you can drop a movie or song or what-have-you in yours and it’ll pop up on their desktop as well. You can pay for more space, as it the wont of these sites, or you can even extend what you’ve got by recommending the service to friends. Essentially, if you’re not using Dropbox already, then it’s time to start.

Box.net - 5GB

Box.net has been around for a while now and, like Dropbox, it’s the sharing and synching side where it specialises. While you’re limited to maximum file sizes of 25MB for free accounts - not much good if you’re looking for somewhere to keep your videos - there is a fairly generous starter package of 5GB of storage to play with.

One of the key aspects on which Box.net sells itself is their mobile solution. The service has apps for iPhone, iPad and Android so that you can keep up to date with all the files you need on the move as well as the ones sitting on your computers at home and at work. Perhaps not the best choice for the casual user with that 25MB file limit but certainly nothing to be sniffed at.

4Shared - 10GB

It’s not the best looking of the lot but 4Shared has the healthiest free storage offering on the list so far at a whopping 10GB. What’s more, the single file limit is all the way up to 2GB which is going to cover 95 per cent of what you’ll want to upload. Like the Amazon Cloud service, you can stream music and videos directly from the 4Shared online player which you can access via your desktop, a toolbar and on Symbian, BlackBerry and Android in the mobile world.

Just a shame it’s missing that all important iOS support as well. The one thing you really want to keep your eye on, though, and a reason why we hesitate to recommend it is that you have to log in once every 30 days otherwise 4Shared will consider your account idle and delete it along with all those precious bits and pieces you’ve uploaded.

Windows Live SkyDrive - 25GB

While Microsoft is happy to dish out bags of free space to anyone with Windows Live account credentials, the 50MB maximum file size means that it’s not going to be a TV & film repository for you. All the same, there’s some typically good photo album and Office document integration as well as the ability to create lists, spreadsheets and presentations up in the cloud too.

You can share just about anything you own with just about anyone on just about any social network and platform you care to think of. What’s more, with the Big M’s far reaching virtual tentacles, SkyDrive will tie in nicely with your computer OS, your mobile phone and even your games console as well - provided they’re all Microsoft, that is.

ADrive - 50GB

The black background and general 90s look of the ADrive website doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence and nor does the fact that the basic package storage doesn’t offer any SSL encryption either. What makes it well worth considering as an online file locker is the seriously impressive 50GB that you get to play with as well as the 2GB file maximum to ensure that even the longest of HD films will have a home up there in the cloud.

There’s no file expiration issues such as those with 4Shared and, being browser based, it’s platform agnostic as well. The downside, of course, is that there’s no direct application access of any kind but that’s not such an issue when you’ve got an internet connection. As a rule, it might not be the place to keep your personals but it’s an excellent vault of for music and films.

Megaupload - 200GB

The whopping loft where you can chuck the contents of your computer and then some called Megaupload looks too good to be true and in some ways it is. At its core, it’s really a way of file sharing and the Hong Kong based company doesn’t seem to care to much what you put in and what comes out the other end so long as they don’t know about it.

You can upload up to 2GB files and download only up to 1GB which is a bit of a catch. Once you’ve successfully added to your vault you get issued a URL which you can send over for friends to download and, mercifully, there’s also plenty of desktop applications to manage what you’ve got in there as well. Possibly worst of all though is that your files expire after 90 days automatically.

Which is the best?

Probably the best solution is to use a few of these services in combination. To keep things clear, you might want to have all your images in SkyDrive with its nice gallery viewer, album sorting and generous amount of storage and then perhaps go with something like ADrive for your music, TV and films. We’d also highly recommend Dropbox for functionality and sharing with Google Documents is just too easy a trick to miss. When it comes down to it, it’s probably even worth having a Megaupload account but just make sure it’s only for big files that you intend to get round to viewing once and then deleting within a short space of time.

Most of all though, do remember that if you keep all your files only up in the cloud then, unless you start duplicating, you won’t actually have anything backed up at all. There’s nothing like the comfort of a big old HDD.

Which online storage services do you use? Let us know in the comments below.