9 free personal clouds offer something for everyone

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Personal cloud services allow users to store data, share it among devices, and collaborate with teams

A personal cloud service lets you share photos, music, and documents among all your devices easily and quickly, but the way that sharing happens depends on which cloud service you choose.

The good news is that these cloud services are normally free for a limited amount of data. Most vendors also offer premium or enterprise versions, which allow you to store more data and to share data, which is useful in a workgroup scenario, for example.

We looked at nine personal cloud services: Apple's iCloud, Bitcasa, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, MediaFire, SpiderOak, and Ubuntu One. While iCloud, SkyDrive, and Google Drive are optimized for their respective platforms, all of the cloud services work across multiple operating systems and different browser types.

In some cases, the vendors offer a shared storage area that other people can access on their own, in others cases you would send a URL to people. Some services also include Web-based apps, such as the ability to create documents or contact lists.

There was no single cloud service that we considered a winner. All worked as advertised, all had their strengths, as well as peculiarities or annoyances.

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