I'm considering a new computer. My current laptop has 1T hard drive and I've used about 300 GB. One of the new computers I'm looking at is very affordable and seems to be a better machine than mine. However, I'm concerned about it's hard drive: it's only 256GB but it's SSD.
Is being SSD worth the loss of hard drive capacity?
That is a question that usually is only answered by the person using the computer.
SSDs will result in the computer loading programs and large data files faster, so it will seem like the computer is much faster than the same computer with a traditional hard drive. This will include boot times...i.e. the computer will boot faster than with an SSD.
Hard drives have the advantage of having a lot more storage space for the same price (i.e. you can get a 1 TB "laptop" 2.5" traditional hard drive for the price of a 256 GB 2.5" SATA SSD). So, it you need lots of storage, then you might be better served by a large hard drive. You can, of course, get larger sized SSDs, but they will cost more than the same size hard drive (Samsung does make a 4 TB 2.5" SATA SSD...it costs more than most laptops do, however...like $1500).
What is the model of the laptop you are considering? I ask because you might be able to order it customize with a larger SSD or they may already have a version with a larger SSD. And if not, then more than like you might be able to upgrade the SSD if the extra capacity is really important to you. Knowing the model of the laptop will allow use to determine if it can be ordered customized or found with a larger SSD, but also tell what kind of SSD it uses.
If I purchase it a good portion of files currently on my hard drive would have to be shifted to an external drive or to cloud storage. That sounds annoying. How does the cloud storage work?
Depends on the cloud storage option you pick. And what kind of files you want to "off load" to the cloud. Some cloud services are more generic in nature. Some are more specific such as for music or photos or for backing up files on your computer.
The most popular "generic" ones such as Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and OneDrive are more intended to work as syncing type cloud storage rather as just as additional storage space. As a result, if used that way, whatever is stored on the cloud storage is also on your computer.
You can, however, modify this behavior to have any of these service NOT sync files to your computer and behave more like just additional storage space. You can do this by NOT installing their computer app and only accessing the service by way of the website...or you could still install their computer app but turn off syncing for most of the files and then access those files that aren't being synced just by the webpage (this would allow you to gain some of the syncing benefit for critical files, which is kind of like a backup of those files on your computer).
If you have a bunch of music files, then you could look at a music oriented cloud service such as Amazon Music (paid), Google Music (free), iTunes Match (paid). Such services will either "match" songs that they have on their service to songs in your library or actually allow you to upload songs to the cloud. You then can stream those songs to any streaming device (that supports that service).
There are also cloud photo services.
I will note that obvious potential issue with cloud services, which is if you don't have Internet access, then you don't have access to those files.
What companies offer it?
As kind of mentioned by DeimosChaos
, there are lots of options. He mentioned the more popular "generic" ones. Most offer some free storage (varies from service to service), but none that is large enough for your apparent excess files. So, you likely would be looking at paying for the capacity you needed. In that vein, I will note that if you pay for an Office 365 subscription, then you get 1 TB of OneDrive storage.
I suppose you don't have to back it up?
Yes and no.
Technically, any files stored on a cloud service should be backed up as part of that cloud service's backup process. So, in theory they are being backed up by them and one could argue that you don't need to do it.
BUT, you are completely reliant on them. If the files get corrupted on their service, they are not necessarily obligated to restore those files from a back up unless it specifically says so in their terms and conditions...and even then enforcing that might be a real pain.
And there is the issue of if the company goes out of business all of a sudden with little to no notice. If so, your files are gone if you don't have a backup. While that not likely to happen with one of the large, well know providers listed above, it has happened with smaller cloud/online services.
Then this is the notion that more backups you have the better off you are. So, even if you count their backing up their servers as a backup, it is still a good idea to do your own backups of those files stored on a cloud service (which happens automatically if you use the sync approach that services such as DropBox intend you to do).
So, I would back up.
Any other thoughts?
Personally, like DeimosChaos
, I would tend to recommend using an external drive (or maybe a second internal drive if the laptop supports that as some do). This will keep at least one copy of those files in your physical possession. You could also then back them up to the cloud (there are cloud services that specialize in just backing up to the cloud) or upload them to a typical cloud service like Dropbox, etc.