A digital mailbox allows individuals and businesses to receive, read and manage letters and parcels remotely through the combination of a virtual address and an online mail management platform.
Cloud storage is a way to store and access digital files without having to save them on your device. Your files are stored on cloud servers which you can access using any connected device. Cloud servers are managed by providers who are responsible for security, maintenance and accessibility. You may have to pay to access cloud storage services, but some providers offer free versions with limited storage.
Cloud storage can offer a more beneficial way for individuals and businesses to store, manage and access their digital files on a daily basis. Cloud storage is also being utilised in emerging technologies, transforming services that would otherwise require large downloads or physical data, such as movies, games and more.
How does cloud storage work?
Cloud storage systems work in varying ways depending on who the provider is and the service you’re accessing, but as a general rule, they follow this process:
- You'll need to sign up for the cloud storage service and create an account.
- After logging in, you can store files within their platform, which will be saved on the cloud.
- When you need to view, download or manage files, log in to the provider's website or platform.
- While accessing files, the information is being served to you through the cloud storage system. It's just like accessing a file you have saved on your device, except it requires an internet connection.
- When you're done accessing or managing files, they'll remain saved on the cloud for when you need them in the future.
What are the benefits of cloud storage?
How you benefit from cloud storage depends on your reasons for using them and other personal factors. However, there are many common benefits that individuals and businesses report from using cloud storage, such as:
- Accessibility - Access your saved files from all of your devices from anywhere, providing that you have an internet connection. This makes cloud storage an excellent solution for individuals and businesses that frequently travel between two or more locations and use multiple devices.
- Data security - Cloud storage providers will protect your data through different methods, such as file encryption. This may be a safer way to store your files than keeping them on your personal computer or hard drive.
- Cost effectiveness - Cloud storage can be much more cost effective than storing files on hardware. This depends on how many files you have, but many providers offer free or low cost plans.
- Collaboration - If you need to share and work on files with other people, such as colleagues, cloud storage makes it easy to access the same information in real time. This also applies to families sharing photo albums, letters or any other digital information.
- Scalability - As your need for more storage increases, you'll have the option to scale your cloud storage allowance. Files are becoming increasingly more demanding with the advances in technology, and cloud storage can help meet your needs as they develop.
- Risk management - Storing files yourself poses a risk. If your hardware breaks, it's stolen, lost or inaccessible, you may lose access to essential files forever. With cloud storage, the risk is minimised, and the provider is responsible for implementing safety procedures.
What are the drawbacks of cloud storage?
Alongside the benefits, there are some disadvantages and risks to using cloud storage systems over physical data storage.
- Internet connectivity - If you cannot connect to the internet, you won’t be able to access your files. If you have slow connectivity, then downloading your files can be slow and frustrating.
- Data leaks - If your cloud storage provider has a data leak, your files may be at risk. This is not common, and the well known cloud storage suppliers have many securities in place to minimise the chance of this ever happening. There's also the risk of compromised account details, such as using a common password and foul players gaining access to your account via a login. However, this can often be avoided through the use of extra security such as two factor authentication.
- Ongoing costs - Using cloud storage may come with an ongoing cost that you must continue paying to access your files. In the long run, it is often still cheaper than buying hardware and storing files yourself, but it's worth bearing in mind.
Examples of popular cloud storage providers
There are many cloud storage providers available, each with its own unique offering and integrations. We've summarised some of the popular options below:
Google Drive is a cloud storage service offered by Google that allows you to store and share files in real-time with anyone else. They also offer additional tools that help you manage everything in one place. Their features include:
- Free storage up to 15GB.
- Store any type of file, such as documents, spreadsheets, photos and videos.
- Access from any device with an internet connection.
- Additional access to Google Drive tools such as Docs, Sheets and Slides.
- Work on files together with other users in real time.
- Control who can access the files stored on a case by case basis, or share access to entire folders.
- Integrate with other Google services such as Gmail, Calendar and Photos.
Dropbox is primarily a platform for storing and sharing files with anyone else across the world, but they offer extra functionality and tools alongside this. Their cloud storage solution offers the following:
- Free storage up to 2GB.
- Store and share files online with other people.
- Access from any device with an internet connection.
- Manage file versions to make collaboration easier.
- Integrates with other software such as Microsoft Office and Google Docs.
- Access additional tools, such as Dropbox Paper - an online document for collaboration in real time.
Apple’s cloud solution, called iCloud, creates a seamless way to manage all of your files across every single device you own. iCloud also unlocks additional features and functionality that would otherwise be unavailable to use. Their solution offers the following:
- Free storage up to 5GB.
- Store and access your files from any Apple device, such as iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
- You can also access iCloud from Microsoft devices.
- Unlock additional services such as Find My iPhone.
- Seamlessly sync all of your files across your Apple devices, including notes, calendars, photos and everything else.
- If your phone is lost, stolen or damaged and you get a replacement, iCloud allows you to restore your data, including app downloads, on your new device.
OneDrive is Microsoft’s solution to cloud storage. They seamlessly integrate cloud files into their other popular tools and services, as well as:
- Free storage up to 5GB.
- Store any type of file, such as documents, photos, videos, music and videos.
- Access your stored files from any device by logging into your Microsoft account.
- OneDrive users can also use Microsoft’s document and productivity tools, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.
- Collaborate with other users in real time on any file saved on the cloud.
- Integrate with other Microsoft services for seamless access to files while using software such as Outlook, Sharepoint and Teams.
- Cloud files are backed up and can be restored if you lose access to them for any reason.
We utilise cloud storage for physical mail items. Your mail is digitised and uploaded online for you to access from anywhere using any connected device, alongside additional features such as:
- Free account options.
- Unlimited digital mail storage.
- Integrate with other popular cloud storage providers to access your physical mail in your existing cloud storage systems.
- Access your mail from anywhere using any connected device.
- Dedicated mobile and tablet app as well as desktop platform.
- Choose a virtual address that you can use for all mail deliveries and more.
- View scans of your letters, organise them into folders, tag them for easy finding, send letters online and more.