I've been a fan of online storage for many years. The simple benefits are that they provide a means of backing up personal files and also making those files available from anywhere. Some services will allow you to share files or folders with other users so it becomes another way of distributing files that e-mail systems can't cope with. With broadband speeds ever increasing, it makes using these services even faster as well.
NB: I'm not going to cover image hosting services here. Although you could store images in any online storage service, there are some specifically tailored to suit sharing out or publishing image collections and I'll get to them another day.
Here are some of the better known free storage providers…
BT Digital Vault - 2Gb Free
Offers a free, basic service with 2GB of storage. Pay £5 a month for the full package and you'll get 20GB and a Backup Manager application that will automatically backup any new or updated documents on your system. The Backup Manager isn't yet Macintosh compatible but they're working on it. Be aware that, if you’ve subscribed to the free Basic service, your files will be only kept for 90 days from your last visit.
Box.net - 1Gb Free
Offers 1Gb of storage for free and you can share your files with any other Box.net user. Sign up for a premium or pro account and you can also get more space, public and workgroup sharing and blog posting. They're working on PC and Macintosh applications to allow automatic file synchronization. The only negative I can see is that the free service has a file size limit of 10Mb.
XDrive - 5Gb Free
Get 5Gb of space for free that you can share or even publish online. You can also allow others to access and even edit your files. Their Desktop Software for Windows allows your XDrive storage to be mounted as an external drive and schedule automatic backups and there's even an interface to allow access from PDAs. You'll need an AOL or AIM account to get an XDrive space but they're free too.
MediaMax - 25Gbs Free
Offers 25Gbs for free with options to upgrade to a range of paid services with up to 1000Gb of storage. It comes with a pretty good set of tools for uploading, sharing and hosting files, music, photos and movies and you can send e-mail links to facilitate sending large files to others.
While 25Gbs is the largest free offering I could find, there are a few limitations for free accounts. You can only download up to 1Gb/month and you can't download any file larger than 25Mb. Same goes for e-mail links.
myDataBus - 5Gbs Free
Another good looking free storage provider, offering 5Gb for free and the only limitation I could see was a 500Mb limit on file size. All files are virus scanned, it comes with group collaboration tools and you can share music, photos, videos, etc. as well as mail links to large files.
There are a host of others offering lower capacity free storage so here's the best of the rest that I could find…
- fileXoom - 2Gb Free
- openomy - 1Gb Free
- Orbitfiles - 1Gb Free
- VMN Storage - 1GB Free
- Mozy - 2GB Free
- Mofile - 1Gb Free
- eSnips - 1Gb free
- Omnidrive - 1-2Gbs Free
KeepMyFile - Unlimited Free
A completely free service that allows file and image hosting but with some major limitations. Uploaded files have a maximum size of 20Mb each with image formats limited to 2.5Mb. They make no guarantees as to file availability and reserve the right to delete or disable access to any file without notice and if a file does not get accessed over a period of 40 days it will eventually be deleted.
MediaFire - Unlimited Free
Offers unlimited uploads with no file size limitations and unlimited bandwidth restrictions on downloading. However, it is fully ad-supported so be prepared to be bombarded with ads while you're using it. They make no guarantees as to availability and reserve the right to change, suspend or discontinue all or any aspect of the services at any time.