There are hundreds of cloud storage options available to internet denizens these days, and it can be hard to know where’s best to place your trust. As we’ve said before, the decentralised nature of the cloud is a bit of a double-edged sword. That said, there are plenty of reasons to invest in cloud storage, so we have chosen some of the most popular services and compared some of their key features:
Dropbox has been around since 2008, and now has more than 175-million users uploading over a billion files every day. Set up and use is in a word, effortless, and Dropbox has a really well designed desktop client that lets you control what gets uploaded to the server without opening the browser. Add to that really simple sharing and versioning (for when you make a mistake or delete the wrong file), plus a variety of fully-featured mobile apps (Android, iOS, Windows, BlackBerry) make Dropbox one of the best all-round cloud storage services. It also came out on top in terms of speed earlier this year.
What Dropbox does lack over some of its rivals is decent collaboration, which isn’t anywhere as smooth as, say Google’s.
With only 2GB of space free, Dropbox is also relatively conservative, but performing a strange collection of social stunts, like following @Dropbox on Twitter and Facebook will net you a bit more. Similarly you can build your storage space up with referrals – each netting you 500MB up to a maximum of 16GB. In terms of pricing Dropbox isn’t the cheapest available, with plans starting at $9.99/month for 100GB.
For years Google has been working on building up its documents offerings and with the rebrand to Drive last year it’s stepped up its competition against Dropbox. Drive works incredibly well with Google’s other services, like Gmail, and so for many it seems the obvious choice for storage. It too has a desktop client, and whilst it’s well designed, Google favours the online route, so the options are somewhat limited in comparison to Dropbox. Conversely though, the browser client is a perfectly designed piece of the Google puzzle, allowing in-browser editing, sharing and versioning. One caveat is that to edit natively Google requires you to upload to a Google Drive format and re-export when you’re done.
Where Drive really shines is in collaborative work. Drive handles multiple people working on the same document smoothly, showing each person’s changes and (different coloured) cursor position in real time, as well as integrating Google chat right into the document.
With 15GB of free space (albeit shared with other Google services), and 100GB for $4.99/month, it’s a good deal cheaper than Dropbox. One other limitation is a 10GB file size limit (but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem!)
You may not have been aware of this, but if you have a Microsoft account (Outlook, Hotmail, Live), or Office 365 then you already have a SkyDrive account. Just sign in with you usual email address and password and you’re in. It’s offering is in many ways pretty much the same as Google and Dropbox, perhaps without some of the sheen and polish that give those two such an enjoyable user experience. But if you’re a PC user, particularly Windows 8, and you’re looking for something that’s 100% compatible with everything you’ll do, then SkyDrive is the choice for you.
The other key reason to look at Microsoft for cloud storage, aside from the hope that such a major company will have almost perfectly stable infrastructure, is that it’s pricing is nearly unbeatable. With 7GB free, it’s not as generous as Drive, but at $50/year for 100GB it’s certainly one of the cheapest upgrade plans.
Similar to Drive it too has a file size limit. Unfortunately it’s a lot smaller than Drive’s, allowing a maximum of 2GB. It’s also worth noting that SkyDrive will be changing its name in the near future, after losing a lawsuit to BSkyB.
iCloud is Apple’s cloud storage offering, but exists mostly as a way of keeping iDevices in sync with your Macbook. This it does with Apple’s usual quality and perfectionism. However, there’s no desktop client on PC, no mobile apps on anything but iOS – in short, iCloud is designed for Macs.
It beats out Dropbox for initial free space, offering 5GB, but as with anything Apple, extra space comes at a premium. The maximum Apple offers is 50GB, which costs a princely $100/year.
Copy from Barracuda Networks, does exactly that, and looks almost identical to Dropbox. They offer you 15 GB of storage when you sign up (20 GB if you use this referral link), absolutely free. Their interface is very similar in functionality and appearance to Dropbox. It’s also very quick and simple to set up and use. They also offer an app which allows you to greatly extend the amount you can store on your smartphone. Copy also give you the ability to set up shortcuts to files, so you don’t have to go into the centralized folder to access you files.
Copy’s unique selling point is what they call ‘fair storage’. This essentially lets you split the cost of a shared folder between the users; i.e. a 20GB folder shared between 4 people would mean each person only paid for 5GB. That does a few weird things to the pricings, but it boils down to around $9.99/month for 250GB.
This online storage service boast fast upload speeds, and relatively cheap pricing. For a detailed Box vs. Dropbox comparison, take a look at this guide provided by Software Advice
Livedrive offer a variety of plans for different purposes, ranging from simple computer backups to large-volume personal cloud storage.
Livedrive have been in the game for over 5 years and are a popular choice for businesses. The reason Livedrive is our cloud storage choice here at Lucidica is because we feel that they offer a very clear and simple to use interface for our customers. It allows us to set up an unlimited amount of accounts with allocated space
So far so good for us, it works seamlessly on PCs but not so well for Mac in terms of support and Data recovery.
That’s not to say it’s the best option for home users, or even for businesses, but with plans starting at £3/month it’s worth looking into.
There are a vast number of services that we haven’t even started to discuss yet, including Cubby (from LogMeIn), Mozy, SugarSync, Amazon, MediaFire, Mega… the list goes on. This level of competition can only be a good thing, inevitably driving prices down and forcing each new startup to offer newer, more innovative features to draw in users. Ultimately, if you’re not picky about having all your eggs in one basket, it’s not a bad idea to try a few out and take advantage of all the free space!