Chances are that if someone checked out the files on your hard drive right now none of them would be encrypted, let alone the drive itself. Why would they be? Unless you have the authorities banging down your door there is no real reason to do so unless you get hit by one of the nastier worms doing the rounds. The problem is that this laid-back approach may carry over when you switch to cloud-based storage, where there is a bigger risk of your data being stolen than when it is sitting on your home computer, especially if you are using a free service like Google Drive or DropBox. More than once these two, as well as others, have been hit with bad breaches that put their users' data in the hands of black hats and other unsavory types. At the same time, the benefits of cloud storage are often too good to pass up for most people, so how can you get the good without the bad?
First of all it is important to realize that the cloud is more than just a few well known sites: there are plenty of places that have good security, it is just that they usually offer only a limited amount of GB for free and start charging a fee for their services once you go over that. Even if you are not worried about security all that much, simply because you feel there is not much of anything to steal from your section of the cloud, it may be a good idea to switch to these providers even if it is just to avoid the hassle of having your account broken into. As long as you watch what you store at these sites you can still enjoy a few free gigs while being relieved of worry about security, a real win-win.
Then again, if the information you are storing is more important than some holiday pictures, like a freelance writer's projects or a small business' accounting records, you may want to switch to more robust providers anyway, simply because a breach can mean the end of your business. Generally speaking, any site can be breached with enough determination but some do more than just make it harder to be hacked. Services like SpiderOak, for example, will encrypt the living daylights out of your files. Low-security sites have a tendency to only encrypt while in the cloud, using keys that are not particularly sturdy and will also store their users' passwords on a disk somewhere. SpiderOak, on the other hand, encrypts files every step of the way, from download to upload and makes sure that you, and only you, have the keys to your files. They do not store their users' passwords anywhere; SpiderOak's employees cannot read what they are storing, but then again, why would they want to?
Another strong contender is Sync.com, a site that tries to combine security with ease-of-use. It boasts as intuitive an interface as you could want, though certain features, like sharing directly from your desktop like on Drive or DropBox, have been disabled in the name of security. The site boasts that they are compliant with HIPAA, which means they meet the standards set by the U.S. government for sensitive data, and that they lock passwords with 2048-bit RSA keys. Should some lucky hacker be able to break this tough security, he will still have to contend with the 256-bit AES encryption placed on the files themselves, making it very unlikely that anyone will get their hands on your data. The nice thing about both SpiderOak and Sync.com is that offer limited free storage, 2GB and 5GB, respectively, which makes it easy for the curious to test drive them and see which they prefer.
Then again, computers are the playthings of the most fanatical of do-it-yourself aficionados: the geeks. There are few areas in which it is so easy to geek out as in setting up your own encryption methods, with the added bonus of being able to use whatever cloud service you feel like to store it. Between open-source programs like TrueCrypt and tricks like two-factor authentication, which requires that you have both a password as well as an object like a paired smartphone to get through, it is possible to create some tough security all of your own as long as you are willing to put in some work. There is a huge community of amateur security specialists creating new methods of encryption every single day and their tools and tips are easily found on the web, allowing you to custom build a setup that meets your every need.
However you want to do it, if you want to store your files in the cloud you are going to have to invest in security by either dedicating time or spending money. Unless you have nothing to lose, the free sites you have been using are not the right place for you to store your important data, so switch over now and make sure it does not fall into the wrong hands.