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Monday, 28 May 2012 08:30

Making the most of your personal cloud

Written by Peter Scott



A few simple tips for freebies, additional functionality


Cloud services are the new black. Millions of geeks and ordinary Joes are finally starting to appreciate the benefits of accessing their stuff anytime, anywhere and on any platform. Cloud is quickly becoming the USB drive of the internets, but in spite of its rising popularity, the vast majority is sticking with free services, at least for the time being.

There are quite a few services to choose from, from Apple’s iCloud and Redmond’s SkyDrive, to DropBox, Box and the new kid on the block, Google Drive. They all have something going for them, but judging from our experience, most people prefer DropBox. The Google Drive app is anything but brilliant (folder issue), DropBox lags behind in terms of capacity, while Box offers loads of storage, but also imposes quite a few draconian restrictions on non-paying users and let’s face it - geeks are cheap. Still, there are a few simple tips and tricks that can provide you with a bit more space and functionality in little to no time.

Let’s start with DropBox, the first true cross-platform solution with excellent integration, file management and sync functionality. Like we said, it is our favorite, but it falls short in terms of capacity. Free users start off with just 2GB of storage, but this is quickly bumped up to about 3GB after completing a few simple steps and tutorials. DropBox awards users per every referral and as of April, this works out to a maximum of 16GB of extra space. However, it is unlikely that many users will pester 32 of their friends and family just to earn 16GB of free storage. Besides, a lot of people already use DropBox and finding a dozen or so who don’t is becoming increasingly difficult. Of course, users can create fake accounts, play around with virtual machines and so on, but this is hardly an elegant solution, not to mention its dubious legality.

Getting a smartphone with a generous DropBox freebie is also a tempting option, provided you do it in good faith. Quite a few people got burned trying to grab 25GB of free storage offered via an HTC One X hack – of course, such practices are illegal and DropBox quickly moved to put an end to them. However, even if you are a debt ridden student who can’t afford a new high-end phone or a pricey DropBox account, there is no reason to despair. Get a few referrals and don’t forget to max out your camera bonus. The camera bonus is often overlooked, but it is as simple as it gets, just sync your phone camera and take 500MB of pics and video. DropBox will award you 500MB of bonus once you do, but the total is capped at 3GB. However, with a couple of referrals and the humble camera bonus you should get up to 10GB with ease and it’s all perfectly legal. There are quite a few DropBox tricks floating around on the web, but it is up to you to decide whether they are worth the effort, or the risk for that matter - many of them violate DropBox terms and conditions.

Box offers a very generous 50GB of free storage, but the free service does not feature a desktop client, it has quite a few upload limitations and its file management is pants. There is a simple workaround. You can mount Box as a network drive on your PC, just type in https://box.net/dav, your username and pass and you are good to go. However, Box does not officially support WebDav and users are reporting quite a few issues. You can try it, but our experience with it is mixed to say the least. It is also possible to get round some of the limitations in the Android world, much more elegantly. Some file managers, like AntTek Explorer, SMEStorage and the excellent FX File Explorer (beta) will allow you to create and copy folders on Box, Google Drive and other cloud services.

There is also an added benefit – these useful apps let users access multiple cloud services in one place. For example, there is a good chance you will end up using Google Drive for business thanks to Google Docs integration, DropBox for camera sync and top notch desktop client, and rely on Box for sheer capacity. Using a good file manager on your phone or tablet will allow you to tap all of them in one place and avoid their foibles, at least to some extent.

Peter Scott

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