The cloud storage landscape has become rather crowded in the last few years. There’s an embarrassment of choice for anyone looking to move to the cloud (and if you haven’t already, you should). The cloud offers so much over conventional storage. Using it, your files and documents are available anywhere you have an internet connection, they are safely backed up in case your computer is lost, stolen, or destroyed, and changes sync across every device you use. The days of having to save something to a USB stick or email it to yourself for retrieval later at work are, thankfully, long gone.
But which service to use? They all offer automatic syncing (drag something into the folder on your computer, and it uploads and syncs quickly). The major players all have perks and special add-ons that attempt to separate them from the pack. What you ultimately choose depends on what you want it for. With that in mind, here are the five best options out there. Cloud up.
Dropbox is the service that brought cloud storage to the mainstream. If you’ve heard of only one cloud service provider, it’s most likely Dropbox. It offers robust integration with a very wide variety of apps and services, allowing you to connect and sync across the web. Dropbox offers 2-Step Verification (an upgrade that makes your online life more secure), automatic photo uploads from your smartphone, and a special Dropbox for Business plan. The Public Folder is an easy way to share files with others.
Available for Windows and Mac computers, as well as Android, iOS, Blackberry, and Kindle Fire devices, Dropbox is truly available wherever you are. The free plan comes with 2GB of storage (the lowest on the list), with an upgrade to 100GB for $9.99/month.
Best For: Someone looking for easy cross-platform integration and syncing, but don’t need a lot of extra storage.
Microsoft’s cloud offering (formerly called SkyDrive) offers a generous 7GB of free storage, and is available for Windows and Mac computers, as well as Android, iOS, and Windows mobile devices (and even your Xbox gaming console). OneDrive offers an additional 3GB of free storage when you first activate their camera roll backup (automatically upload photos from your camera and tablet). If you’re a Microsoft Office aficionado, OneDrive has built-in Office functionality, allowing you to create, edit, and save Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. OneDrive for Business allows you to upgrade to 25GB for a monthly fee of $2.50/month/user. You can even remotely fetch files from OUTSIDE the OneDrive folder if the computer is online and the option has been activated (this gives you total remote access to your computer).
Best For: Anyone looking for a free and reliable photo backup service (10GB with the free account), or someone still living in a Microsoft Office environment (to which I have to ask...why?).
Box is widely considered to be the best option for business. They offer four different levels of service:
1) Personal - Free, 10GB.
2) Starter - $5/month/user, 100GB (shared).
3) Business - $15/month/user, 1000GB (shared).
4) Enterprise - $35/month/user, unlimited storage.
However, Box’s user-interface and functionality is not great for the average, typical user. Box has frequently offered free upgrades to 50GB in the past, so it might be worth keeping an eye on it.
Box excels at providing robust service, add-ons, and security for companies. The Business and Enterprise plans offer security and app features designed especially for business (such as audit logs, custom branding, customised admin roles, and user management), and not available with other cloud providers. Box is available for Windows and Mac, and Android, iOS, and Windows mobile devices.
Best For: Business application and needs
We’ve looked in detail at Google Drive already (it's my personal favourite). It provides total and seamless integration in the Googleverse (Gmail, search engine, Android mobile devices, Calendar, and so forth), and gives users the largest free allowance of storage (15GB), as well as the cheapest upgrades (100GB for $1.99/month and 1TB for $9.99/month). Drive users can create, edit, and easily share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations that are compatible with a large variety of formats (Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, PDF, etc.), and everything is automatically saved and synced across all devices and computers.
Google Drive actually allows a user to purchase up to 30TB (30,000GB) for $299.99/month.
Best For: Anyone looking for cheap and ample cloud storage (by far the cheapest!), or anyone invested in the Googleverse (Android phone, Gmail user, Chrome browser, etc.).
Tresorit is relatively new to the game. Its basic features are similar to the others, but where Tresorit really sets itself apart is in terms of security. It offers end-to-end encrypted sharing and storage. Beyond that, ANY folder on your computer can be turned into a shared tresor folder. By comparison, Dropbox, Box, Drive, and OneDrive all have one folder on your system that is synced to the cloud. Available for Windows and Mac, Android and iOS mobile devices, their free account gives 5GB, with upgrades to Pro (100GB and up starting at $12.99/month) and Business (100GB and up, with special business features, starting at $19.49/month).
Tresorit takes your security very seriously. It’s hands-down the best of the bunch. Everything is encrypted on your device before it is sent to the cloud, and Tresorit is so confident that it has even offered a $25,000 reward to anything able to hack it.
Best For: Anyone concerned about security.
These five represent the best cloud storage available, but there are many other options that might be worth checking out. SugarSync (starting at $7.49/month for 60GB), Cubby (offering 5GB for free, end-to-end encryption, and multiple folders), and Amazon Cloud Drive (5GB for free, and unlimited free storage for music and videos purchased via Amazon) are all respected providers, though not as ubiquitous as the other five.
Whichever you choose, just make sure you make the switch. Cloud computing and cloud storage is the way of the future, and you’ll wonder how you ever survived without it.
Photo by Perspecsys Photos
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