10 FREE Online Services: Free E-mail, File Storage, and File Sharing for Students on a Budget

If you’re a college student on a pretty tight budget, you’ve probably already mastered the gourmet Ramen-noodle dinner and the art of interior decorating with crate-box and garage-sale furniture.

But while you’re limiting how much your offline lifestyle eats into your budget, make sure you’re not spending your precious food or rent dollars on online services like e-mail, file storage, or file sharing. You can get every single one of these services for free, with features comparable to or even better than the paid versions.

With all these free options, you should be able to satisfy your online communication and file sharing needs without ever dipping into your wallet. Heck, with the money you’ll save, you might even be able to upgrade to macaroni and cheese.

Top 5 Free E-mail Services

Sure, free e-mail has been available for years, but not with the kind of storage, features, and security you can get these days.

Every one of these five major e-mail providers offers really decent basic service that won’t cost you a single penny. Some of them also feature POP3 or IMAP capability (or both) so you can access and organize your webmail using your favorite desktop e-mail application, like Outlook or Mail.

1.  Gmail

Google’s webmail service, this is probably the best free e-mail out there. It’s super-easy to use, offers good technical support, and comes with great features, awesome spam control, tons of inbox space, and a lot of extras.

  • Inbox Storage: Virtually unlimited (6+ GB and growing every day)
  • File Attachment Max Size: 10 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: Both
  • Extras: Calendar, mobile access, built-in IM/chat with Google Talk, message notifier, language support, no pop-ups or banner ads

2.  AOL Mail

Long the butt of jokes for mass-mailing CDs offering their online service, AOL actually offers pretty decent free e-mail, with super spam protection. But beware: Customer support can be difficult to contact.

  • Inbox Storage: Unlimited
  • File Attachment Max Size: 16 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: Both
  • Extras: Calendar, notes, mobile access, built-in IM/chat with AIM, integrated text messaging, message notifier, language support, personalized domain, games

3.  Yahoo! Mail

A great user interface and e-mail organization make this a strong choice, but no POP3 or IMAP access will be a problem if you want to use your own e-mail application instead of your Web browser.

  • Inbox Storage: Unlimited
  • File Attachment Max Size: 10 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: None
  • Extras: Calendar, news, notes, mobile access, built-in IM/chat with Yahoo! Messenger, integrated text messaging, message notifier, games

4.  Inbox.com

Inbox.com has some pretty standard features, but lacks a phishing filter, which might bother some people.

  • Inbox Storage: 5 GB, or 2 GB if you want POP3 Access
  • File Attachment Max Size: 20 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: POP3
  • Extras: Calendar, news, notes, message notifier, 5GB online data storage, photo sharing, games, e-cards

5.  Windows Live Hotmail

Microsoft’s new-and-improved free webmail (formerly MSN Hotmail) provides some nice integration with your operating system, especially if you’re running Windows Vista. This is a distinct improvement over the old Hotmail.

  • Inbox Storage: 5 GB
  • File Attachment Max Size: 10 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: None
  • Extras: Calendar, mobile access, built-in IM/chat with Windows Live Messenger, message notifier, games

Top 5 Free Online File Storage and Sharing Services

Instead of eating up your hard drive space, you can store some of your bigger files, like videos and MP3s, online with one of these five providers.

Some of these services come with unique interfaces to share specific things, like photos, and even to host videos, websites, blogs, and other stuff. But you’ll need to be running Windows to get all the benefits each provider has to offer — sorry, Mac-heads.

1.  MediaMax

Huge storage, plus lots of extras.

  • Online Storage: 25 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, hosting, backup and sync, browser access, Windows desktop software

2.  Xdrive

Provided by AOL. Small storage, but lots of extras.

  • Online Storage: 5 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, backup, browser access, Windows desktop software

3.  ripway

Lots of storage and good features, including lots of hosting options.

  • Online Storage: 30 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, hosting, backup and sync, browser access

4.  box

Limited storage, but neat extras and awesome Web 2.0 interface.

  • Online Storage: 1 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, browser access, mobile access, desktop widget

5.  OmniDrive

Limited storage, but smooth integration with Windows and the ability to edit spreadsheets and word processing docs.

  • Online Storage: 1 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, backup, browser access, Windows and Mac desktop software, integration with Windows OS and with Zoho office applications
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Microsoft <3's Students

One thing that frustrates me with Microsoft is that so many great projects and services take place and are available but….. NO ONE EVER HEARS ABOUT THEM!!!  Our public facing PR sometimes, okay often leaves me shaking my head. I can not count the number of times I have been talking to someone about free services and such we have that address just the challenge they may be having yet they never heard of it. I sort of hit a I AM ABOUT TO SCREAM moment today when someone asked me if Microsoft had any resources for students as this particular client has a senior at home who is heading off to college next year, just like my own son. Well the answer was/is YES! As I sent them the link and then Twitted it as well I decided to quick put together a list of some great online products and services that are free. They can be a big help whether you are a student heading off to college, a small business owner looking to establish a credible online presence, a high school student looking to dive in to the world of programming or video game design. There is so much I won’t even scratch the surface and unfortunately there is not one central location you can go to find freebies from Microsoft….. well maybe there is but that would be another best kept secret.

Best Kept Secrets From Microsoft:
  • Live@EduThe Microsoft Live@edu program provides institutions of higher education and K-12 with a set of free hosted and co-branded collaboration and communication services for students, alumni, and applicants, leading with an offer of Windows Live™ Hotmail®, a hosted e-mail service, and Office Live Workspace, an online space to collaborate on Microsoft Office documents. Although Microsoft hosts the e-mail, the institution maintains control: you continue to create, delete, and store institution e-mail addresses for your constituents—as you do today
  • Microsoft DreamsparkOther than totally cool? Glad you asked. Here’s how it works: if you’re a current university or high school student, you can download professional Microsoft developer, designer, and gaming software through DreamSpark at no charge. Yes, students get to download software at no charge. DreamSpark enables students, like you, to download and use Microsoft tools to unlock your creative potential and set you on the path to academic and career success by advancing your learning in the areas of technical design, technology, math, science, and engineering! It doesn’t matter what classes you’re taking right now, just as long as you’re a current student in a verified, accredited School and use the tools in pursuit of advancing your education in one of these areas.”
  • Microsoft Office LiveMicrosoft Office Live Workspace beta is your online place to save, access, and share documents and files. Use it to group related information for work, school, or personal projects. No downloads are required—just sign up and go.”
  • Download Office SharePoint Designer “Office SharePoint Designer 2007 provides the powerful tools you need to deliver compelling and attractive SharePoint sites and quickly build workflow-enabled applications and reporting tools on the SharePoint platform, all in an IT-managed environment.”
  • Free MCTS Vouchers for College StudentsWe know that tech savvy students like you will be driving business and technology decisions for tomorrow’s companies. Microsoft will be there with you through every step of your career with career planning, training, certification, community and certification! It’s no secret that there is a shortage of qualified IT Professionals and Developers in today’s workforce. But did you know that:
    • 55% of hiring managers consider employee certification as a criterion for hiring
    • 46% of Hiring Managers consider employee certification as a criteria for promotion
    • 43% of individuals reported salary increases as a result of Microsoft certification
  • Get Live EssentialsNow in one installation, Windows Live Essentials gives you instant messaging, e-mail, blogging, photos, and more.”