Using cloud storage to house your files holds many advantages. But each of the major services is a little different. So, which is right for you?
This short guide will outline what each service has to offer, making you a more informed cloud storage user.
Works on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Phone
Free Storage: 15GB
Paid Plans: 100GB for $2/month, 200GB for $4/month, 1 TB for $7/month
File Size Restriction: 10GB
OneDrive is Microsoft’s storage option. If you use Windows 8, 8.1, or the new Windows 10, then you have it built into your operating system. You can find it in the file explorer next to the files on your hard drive. However, anyone can use OneDrive on the web by downloading the desktop app. It works for Mac, earlier versions of Windows, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Xbox.
OneDrive organizes your files by file type, supposedly making it easier to find your uploads. However, this isn’t always the case as it sometimes puts files in the wrong folders.
The Android, iOS, and Windows Phone apps all have the ability to automatically upload any photo you take to your cloud account. Also, if you use Microsoft Office apps, you’ll be able to see a list of recent documents saved to OneDrive. With Office 365, you can open a document on OneDrive and collaborate on it in real time so you can see changes appear just as they happen.
Microsoft hopes to one day make OneDrive so sophisticated that it will be able to know what pictures are most important to you and sort them accordingly while deleting the unimportant ones. It’s an interesting idea and we look forward to seeing how well it works.
OneDrive is likely best suited for people who want their files stored quickly while putting in minimal effort.
Works on: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Kindle Fire
Free Storage: 2GB
Paid Plans: 1TB for $10/month
File Size Restrictions: 10Gb with website. None with app.
Dropbox is a well-known contender in the cloud storage arena, mostly because of its reliability, easy-to-use interface, and fast setup. It’s also one of the most compatible cloud services out there. You can pull and upload files using either the Dropbox website or the desktop and mobile app.
The other great thing about Dropbox is that it can store any file type. By downloading the app, you can integrate it with your filing system so you can easily move files in and out of the cloud. The service automatically syncs your files across all of your devices, so you can access them from anywhere. No file is too large for Dropbox (that is unless it goes over your allotted space) and upload time will depend on your connection speed.
Dropbox won’t sort anything for you, so it’s up to you to determine how you want to organize your files. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s designed as more of a blank slate, allowing you to sort your files however you like.
The main drawback to Dropbox is its web interface. The design is almost too basic and doesn’t give you all that many options to view and organize your files. The app is definitely the way to go.
As a Dropbox user, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to earn extra storage. Participating in a quick tutorial will get you an extra 250MB. Turning on the automatic photo upload feature on mobile will get you 3GB. Referring a friend will get you 500MB if they sign up for the service. However, this offer is capped at 16GB. Of course, you can skip all of this and pay $10/month and get 1TB of storage.
All in all, Dropbox is great for people looking for a clean, easy-to-use place to store their data and need to access it with different kinds of devices.
Works on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Free Storage: 15GB
Paid Plans: 100GB for $2/month, 1TB for $10/month
File Size Restriction: 5TB
Google has a whole suite of office tools that are basically a dumbed down version of Microsoft Office. This includes a word processor, spreadsheet application, and presentation builder. The great thing about these tools is that you can use them to open other files, even if they were made in another program. All documents created or opened with these tools save to your Google Drive account. You can also upload your own personal photos, videos, documents, Photoshop files, and much more.
If you already have a Google+ or Gmail account, you already have access to Google Drive. The 15GB storage space you get with it is shared between your Gmail, Google+, and any other files you create or upload.
You can access and organize your files through the Google Drive website or the app. With the app, your files with sync to all of your devices automatically.
If you have a Chromebook, then Drive is your best cloud storage option, being that it’s built into the operating system. You can also download other Drive apps for Android and iOS to better view and manage your files on your phone.
Works on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry
Free Storage: 10GB
Paid Plans: 100GB for $10/month, 100GB for $5/month per user, Unlimited for $15/month per user
Files Size Restriction: 250MB with free plan. 5GB with paid plan.
Box caters to the business and IT crowd, although you can create a free individual account. Apart from the basics you come to expect from any cloud storage service, Box has a list of additional features that allow you to share files with colleagues, assign tasks, leave comments on someone’s work, and get notifications when a file changes.
While Box doesn’t have the same full suite that Google Drive has, you can use it to create basic text documents. You can upload pretty much any kind of file to Box and preview them from Box’s website. Downloading the app will allow you to sync files between your hard drive and the cloud.
Box also gives you plenty of privacy controls. You can decide who in the company can view and open specific files and folders, as well as who can edit and upload documents. You can also password-protect individual files and set expiration dates for shared folders.
The other cool thing about Box is that you can integrate it with other apps like Salesforce and NetSuite, allowing you to easily pass documents back and forth. You can also install plug-ins for Microsoft Office and Adobe Lightroom that will let you open and edit files saved on Box.
Box may feel a bit overwhelming for the casual cloud user, but for business people working with complex processes and data, it’s one of the best.
Amazon Cloud Drive
Works on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Kindle Fire
Free Storage: Only with Amazon Prime subscription.
Paid Plans: Unlimited Photos for $12/month, Unlimited Files for $60/year
File Size Restrictions: 2GB with web. None with app.
Amazon entered the cloud storage game a couple years ago and has stepped up significantly since then with its Unlimited Photo plan and Unlimited Everything plan. Both plans start with a free 3-month trial.
Unlimited Photo is available for all Amazon Prime members or anyone who has a Fire device. If you don’t have either one of these, you’ll have to pay. (But really, if you’re interested in the photo storage, you should get it through an Amazon Prime subscription. It’s just a much better deal.)
With the Unlimited Photo plan, you can store photos of any file type. You also get 5GB free for storing other files, such as video, PDFs, and other documents.
The Unlimited Everything plan gives you exactly what you’d hope: storage for an unlimited number of files of any type. The only catch is that each file has to be under 2GB unless you use the Cloud Drive desktop apps.
A major difference with the Amazon Cloud Drive app is that it doesn’t allow you to view your files from a folder on your computer. You can upload files and download your entire library, but if you want to view them or make changes, you have to go to Amazon’s website.
When using the app with your mobile device, you can set it to automatically upload any videos and photos immediately after you take them. Fire devices already have this feature built-in.
While it does have its drawbacks (only allowing you to view and manage files on the Cloud Drive website being the major one), you still get an unlimited amount of space store to small to medium sized files.
Copy and CudaDrive
Works on: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS
Free Storage: 15GB
Paid Plans: 250GB for $5/month, 1TB for $10/month
File Restrictions: None
Copy and CudaDrive are the cloud services of Barracuda Networks. They are more on par with Box and Dropbox, as they are most useful in a business setting. However, this is not to say the individual users should automatically rule them out.
Copy is better suited for individual users and small businesses. Included with your free account is a referral program where you can receive 5GB of free storage by getting someone else to sign up.
All around, it’s fairly comparable to Dropbox. The desktop app has a clean design with a simple drag-and-drop interface. The web interface is a bit stale, giving it more similarities to Dropbox.
CudaDrive offers more complex storing options and is for larger scale enterprises. One of the coolest things about CudaDrive is its shared folders. With it, you can assign people a certain amount of space for a given folder.
For instance, if you have a 50GB folder shared amongst five people, you can section off the folder to give each person using it an equal 10GB of space. This way only 10 GB of space is taken up by each person’s CudaDrive account, preventing the entire size of the folder from counting against each individual’s storage limit.
CudaDrive has a bunch of different pricing options, every one of them allowing for unlimited users, no maximum file size limit, file revision history and recovery. The plans start out at 100GB for $39.99/month (or $399/year) and go all the way up to 4TB for $569.99/month (or $5,699/year).
Both Copy and CudaDrive are impressive alternatives to the mainstream cloud servicers out there.