Should I Start With a Free Service or a Paid One?
Free plans are well, free as promised. Sometimes they are available for a finite time period, and sometimes (like in the case of SugarSync) they are available for an unlimited time, but have a cap on the amount of data you can store for free. In SugarSync’s case, this is 5 GB a month, which is not an enormous amount.
Paid plans typically range from $3.86/month to $9.99 per month. The price naturally increases from $9.99 per month when additional features are included, such as automatically created folders for ease of use, and availability across a variety of platforms, including mobile phones. The adage that ‘you get what you pay for’ certainly holds true here. Most businesses find that the features they need are really only available with a paid service.
One advantage of using a free service is that you are not locked into a contract and are completely free to quit and try another service whenever you wish. Paid plans usually come with some sort of time commitment as well, so this is something to watch out for. It’s well worth it to try several free plans out to get a good idea of the market, before committing to any long term contracts.
Think of a clearance sale for clothes. You might find some designer items at a much cheaper rate than usual, but it’s often disappointing if the article you want isn’t available in your particular size! Similarly, if a free storage service doesn’t explicitly fit your needs, it’s not really worth it in the long run. Prices for paid services are now so reasonable, due to huge competition, that you are better off finding a company that can fulfill all of your requirements for a decent price per month.
With the advent of so many online services, most people find that there are times when they feel stumped about one particular techinical issue or another. Rather than waste valuable work time, access to a good help desk can be vital.
Customer support is an integral part of any service company, and therefore isn’t denied to you entirely, whether you opt for a free plan or a paid one. Free plan users usually have access to email and forum support, but with a paid plan, you generally have online chat and phone help options as well. If immediate assistance is important to you, a paid plan is always a better option.
What are you actually storing?
Whether you actually go with a free or a paid service will ultimately largely depend on the type of data you need to store. You may well find a free service to suit your needs, as long as you only ever need to back up a handful of spreadsheets and Word documents. However, if you intend to store and/or share data that consumes more space than this, such as video or audio files and photographs, you may need to find a reasonable paid service.
Security is another consideration here. While all service providers generally offer the same or greater level of security as a bank (128-bit AES encryption), there are some companies that require anybody who views your shared files to sign in to gain access. This is an extra level of protection that is useful when sharing sensitive information by way of a public link, for instance. Many customers find that they’d rather pay for this peace of mind for all of their data than be limited by the small amount of free storage that such companies offer.
Giving free service is not a big deal for data storage companies, as they own an enormous amount of space, generally. Free offers are usually akin to taking a motor bike or a car for a test drive before buying. In this case, however, you get to try the product for a few weeks before you have to make a decision. It’s often worthwhile to do so. There are so many decent service providers on the market these days that something as simple as how user-friendly the software interface is can make all the difference to you.
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