Everybody is talking about file sharing in the cloud these days. But what does that mean to you -- and which apps are best? This article explores five popular (and free or free-to-try) cloud apps you can use to share files among devices or with your co-workers, clients, friends, and family.
Dropbox is the granddaddy of cloud file storage apps, available for Windows, Linux, and Mac desktop computers, as well as iPhone and Android phones. The idea behind Dropbox is a simple one: After you install the application, a Dropbox folder appears on your desktop, and you can drag and drop and organize your files in that one folder, which is stored in the cloud. This means you can work with that folder on multiple computers or on your mobile device and your synchronized files are always just a click or tap away. Dropbox gives you 2GB of storage space when you sign up for a free account. If you want to increase the amount of space available for your files, you can upgrade to a Pro 50 account and get 50GB for $9.99 per month or get 100GB for a monthly fee of $19.99.
SoonR is another popular cloud offering that gives you tools for sharing files across multiple devices and platforms. One big difference here is that the only free thing about SoonR is its 30-day trial period; after that, the premium plan ($9.99/month) enables you to share 25GB of storage with three team members. You can also upgrade your account to a Pro account ($29.99/month), which increases your team members to five and your storage space to 100GB.
SoonR is iPhone, Android, and Blackberry friendly, so you can easily share, sync, and view your files no matter where you are during the day. SoonR seems to be more geared toward enterprise (or at least SMB) use; if you're just sharing files with yourself, a free app might work just as well.
SugarSync is another multiplatform-friendly cloud offering that enables you to back up, synchronize, and share files on Windows and Mac computers and on a wide range of devices (iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android, and Symbian). SugarSync seems to stand out a bit in the mobile realm; you can upload and sync files by email and sync your folders to your mobile device, which is great if you do lots of your work on the road. SugarSync offers a 5GB free account. You can also choose plans ranging from 30GB for $4.99/month to 250GB, which will put you back $24.99 each month.
ZumoDrive works with Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, Android, and Palm Pre and seems to be making a lot of people happy. Designed to give you access to all your files -- music, documents, videos, photos, and more -- wherever you are and no matter what device or platform you're using, ZumoDrive's tag line is "cloud storage that appears local." ZumoDrive gives you 1GB of free storage. You can also choose a for-fee subscription plan that works for you --ranging from 10GB for $2.99/month all the way up to 500GB for $79.99/month.
You can easily link folders on your computer and devices to ZumoDrive and use the service's integration with iTunes to organize, sync, and arrange your music lists without downloading the files to your computer. Sharing with others is also super-simple: Just enter the email addresses of folks you want to be able to share your files.
SendSpace is a file-sharing utility that's been around since 2005. It includes a desktop tool -- for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems -- and mobile apps for iPhone and Android phones. SendSpace's claim to fame is that you can share gargantuan files with others securely, and it functions more like a conduit for your files (you're sending them, after all) than a cloud storage space for information you want to share with others. This ability to send mega-size files has worked well for me. I've used it to send gigabytes of book files to colleagues in other countries, and the service has been easy to use and reasonably prompt for those times when I need to deliver a file right away.
SendSpace is free and allows you to share files without registering. But if you sign up for one of the premium accounts (ranging in price from $6.99 to $49.99), you get increasing amounts of bandwidth and storage space -- and best of all, no ads!
Other file-sharing apps?
What are your favorite file-sharing cloud apps? Share your recommendations with other TechRepublic members.
Katherine Murray is a technology writer and the author of more than 60 books on a variety of topics, ranging from small business technology to green computing to blogging to Microsoft Office 2010. Her most recent books include Microsoft Office 2010 Plain & Simple (Microsoft Press, 2010), Microsoft Word 2010 Plain & Simple (Microsoft Press, 2010), and Microsoft Word 2010 Inside Out (Microsoft Press, 2010).