Google Docs: Not the only free cloud storage in the sky

Here are four existing alternatives to Google's new storage offer - and the strengths of each.

In the coming weeks, Google Docs users will be able to store more of their important files online, where they can access them easily and share them with others, according to a Tuesday post on The Official Google Blog.

Users will be able to upload a file as large as 250MB to Google Docs. They'll also get 1GB of free storage for files that aren't in one of the Google Docs formats, such as documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Additional storage will cost 25 cents per GB per year.

The cloud-storage feature is certainly good news for Google Docs fans, but it's not the only free service in the sky. Here are four alternatives worth a closer look.

DropBox

Google's DropBox offers 2GB of free online storage. Other options include 50GB for $9.99 per month, or 100GB for $19.99 per month. When put your files in a DropBox folder in one computer, they're uploaded to the site's secure servers. Google Docs has a 250MB file size limit, but DropBox has no such limitation. You can access your files from other computers (Windows, Mac, or Linux) or mobile devices that run DropBox too.

Box.Net

Targeted at the corporate crowd, Box.Net is a little less generous in the storage department (click on the image for a look at the full screen).

The site's free option provides 1GB of online storage with a 25MB file-size limit. For $10 per month, you get 5GB of storage and a 1GB file size limit. The $15 per month plan includes 10GB of storage, with the same 1-gig file cutoff. Pricier plans for enterprise customers (with unlimited storage) are available too.

Microsoft Live Mesh

Live Mesh is another cloud service that lets you sync files across multiple computers (Windows and Mac), smartphones, and other mobile devices.

You get 5GB of free storage, but Live Mesh won't share or sync files and folders stored on removable media, including USB, flash, or external hard drives. Live Mesh offers a lot of synchronization options, and supports remote control of any PC in your mesh.

Windows Live SkyDrive

Microsoft's SkyDrive may lack the sophisticated sync-and-share features of its Live Mesh sibling, but it compensates for it by offering a whopping 25GB of free online storage.

SkyDrive supports public, private, and shared folders. Until recently, SkyDrive didn't integrate well with other Microsoft apps, but that's changing. For instance, the new Office 2010 beta lets you save a document on your PC directly to your SkyDrive online account. Will Google Docs, or the long-rumored but unannounced Google Gdrive online storage service, someday match or surpass SkyDrive's generous 25-gig offering?

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Jeff Bertolucci

PC World (US online)
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