Using the cloud can bring advantages that could be extra enticing for a small business. Instead of having to invest in hardware to store your files and applications, why not use the cloud? Instead of emailing documents back and forth, why not centrally store them in the cloud?
To dip your toes in the cloud a variety of companies offer free cloud storage for users to test their service out. Below are nine examples of free cloud storage offered by vendors.
+MORE AT NETWORK WORLD: 12 More Free cloud storage options | FREE Security tools you should try + Google DriveFree storage: 15 GBAdditional plans: Google Apps for Business for $5/user/month, or $50/user/year with 30 GB of storage across GMail and Drive.Google Apps for Business with Vault for $10/user/month includes data management tools such as ability to set data retention policies and supplying audit logs.Features: Includes integration with other Google Apps, such as Docs, Sheets and Slides. Has powerful search functionality.More information: Google Drive BoxFree storage: 10 GB for one user, with 250 MB file size upload limitAdditional plans:Starter: $5/user/month for 1-10 users with 100 GB with 2 GB file size limitBusiness: $15/user/month for 1000 GB with 5 GB file size limitEnterprise: $35/user/month unlimited storage with 5 GB file size limitHigher priced plans come with custom administrator roles, such as user and file statistics and history.Features: Box is as much a content collaboration platform as a storage platform. The company has a variety of features to not only create content, but edit and manage content in a group setting.More information: Box cloud Microsoft OneDriveFree storage: 7 GBAdditional plans: Small business plan is $5/user/month or $60 annually for up to 25 users.Small business premium is $12.5/user/month or $150 annuallyMid-size is $15/user/monthEnterprise plans for Office 365 range from $4/user/month to $22/user/monthFeatures: More expensive plans come with features such as Active Directory integration, Office mobile for iPhone and Android devices, archiving, legal holds and unlimited storage, hosted voicemail or Lync Server. All plans offer integration with Microsoft Office tools such as Word and PowerpointMore information: Microsoft OneDrive Amazon Web ServicesFree storage: AWS offers a free usage tier, which are introductory plans to get your feet wet with Amazon's cloud. On the storage side, both AWS Simple Storage Service (S3) and Elastic Block Storage (EBS) have free usage tiers. S3 offers 5GB of free storage, while EBS offers 30GB of free storage. The free usage tier requires a credit card to sign up.Additional plans: The company offers literally dozens of services from compute instance types to storage tiers, databases and the largest third-party marketplace of services that have been certified to run on AWS's cloud.Features: Amazon Web Services is considered by many the market-leading IaaS public cloud because of its breadth and depth of cloud-based service offerings.More information: Amazon Web Services Free Usage Tier Amazon Cloud DriveFree storage: 5 GBAdditional plans:20GB of storage: $10/year50GB: $25/year100GB: $50/year200GB: $100/year500GB: $250/year1000GB: $500/yearCloud Music Player offers to store 250,000 songs for $24.99/yearFeatures: Separate from Amazon Web Services, Amazon.com's Cloud Drive is a more consumer-oriented service, complete with apps to access files in Cloud Drive for Android, iPhone, Kindle and desktops.More information: Amazon Cloud Drive OpenDriveFree Storage: 5GB of free cloud storage for unlimited amount of time, with 100MB file size limit.Additional plans: Personal plan is $12.95/month with unlimited storage. For $29.95/month customers get unlimited storage with the ability to custom brand the storage offering, so it's meant to be a white label offering. Starting at $5/month users can specify the amount of cloud storage they need.Features: Although not associated with a major brand-name company, OpenDrive has solid reviews. Its customer branding offers allow companies to white label its service as a free cloud storage services for their customers.More information: OpenDrive
EMC SyncplicityFree storage: 2GBAdditional plans:50GB for $15/month, with a maximum of three user logins, with unlimited file sizes. Customer priced enterprise plans are also available.Features: File distribution, mobile applications, single sign on with Active Directory, two factor authentication, 256-bit AES in transit and at rest encryption, plus centralized policy controls for documents and usage reports. 99.999999999% resiliency.More information: Synplicity
DropBoxFree storage: 2GBAdditional plans: Pro version for $9.99/user/month for $100 GB/monthBusiness plan is $15/user/month for unlimited storageFeatures: All versions have 256-bit AES encryption. Business plans have unlimited file recovery, version history, and business management tools such as tracking of logins, devices and locations, as well as single sign on and Active Directory support, along with phone support.More information: DropBox
SpiderOakFree storage: 2GBAdditional plans:100GB for $10/month, $100/annuallyEnterprise pricing plans for more storage is also available.Features: The main differentiating feature of SpiderOak is the company's "Zero-Knowledge" policy. This means that all customer data is encrypted and SpiderOak does not have the "keys" to unencrypt it. "This means the server never sees or understands plaintext data - keeping your critical business documents safe and secure always," the company says on its website.More information: SpiderOak Senior Writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing for Network World and NetworkWorld.com. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW. Read his Cloud Chronicles here.