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Cloud Storage Comparison Guide

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February 28, 2014

Microsoft SkyDrive has recently been relaunched as OneDrive

Microsoft SkyDrive has recently been relaunched as OneDrive

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Following Microsoft's recent relaunch of SkyDrive as OneDrive, there is a little more parity and competition at the top of the cloud storage market. How do the options stack up against each other though? This article provides a comparison of the main players – Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Apple iCloud and Amazon Cloud Drive.

First thing's first, a point on how I've chosen the services for comparison. The services featured are the biggest players in the consumer cloud storage market. It should be noted that there are some other worthy cloud storage services, but this approach means that most people may already have an account for one or more of the services featured.

Platforms

The first consideration is on what platform each of the offerings are available. As you'd expect, all provide software that can be installed on Windows and Mac computers to allow for easy upload and syncing of files to the cloud. Apple is the most restrictive, however, and does not offer an Android application for iCloud, unlike its competitors.

Amazon's Cloud Drive has an app for Kindle and Microsoft has a OneDrive app for Xbox, both of which may be useful for users in those niches, but are unlikely to be deal-breakers for most people.

More significantly, Microsoft already has a OneDrive app available for Windows Phone, where the others currently do not. Although iOS and Android dominate the mobile landscape, Windows Phone has recently been confirmed as the fastest growing mobile OS and so, all things considered, that's enough to give OneDrive the edge.

Winner: OneDrive

Microsoft OneDrive is available for most operating platforms

Free Storage

All of the services featured use a freemium model of business as a means of getting users on board. There's quite a disparity between how much free space is offered, though. Google is way out in front here, offering users 15 GB of space for free when they sign up. The next highest is 7 GB offered by OneDrive, less than half of the space provided by Google Drive.

Apple and Amazon both offer users 5 GB of free space with their respective offerings, but Dropbox only offers 2 GB of free storage. This amount may have seemed generous some years back, but it feels conspicuously low now, particularly as Dropbox was one of the first cloud storage services to market.

It should be noted that Dropbox offers up to 16 GB of extra free space to users who successfully refer others to the service. The only other service that takes this approach is OneDrive, which offers up to a potential extra 5 GB of free space to users for successful referrals, and a further 3 GB for enabling its auto-camera-backup option.

It's notable that these are the two services that perhaps have the most to gain from adding extra users, hence their use of the referral model. Although it is a plus point, for the purposes of this comparison we'll take free in the strictest sense of the word.

Winner: Google Drive

Google Drive interface

Paid Storage

Each of the services featured allows users to pay a regular fee for increased storage space. The size and timeframes offered vary, but for this comparison we'll take the first increment to which users can upgrade.

Microsoft and Amazon lead the way here, each offering a value of 24 GB per dollar per month. Both offer their lowest upgrades over the course of a year, but OneDrive is 50 GB for $25, while Cloud Drive is 20 GB for $10. Google isn't far behind, with an entry offer of 100 GB for $4.99 per month. That works out at 20 GB per dollar per month. Given the low entry price and high value, this one goes to Amazon.

Like Google, Dropbox offers an upgrade to 100 GB, but the cost is $9.99 per month, which works out at 10 GB per dollar per month. iCloud users, meanwhile, receive just 3 GB per dollar per month for their subscriptions (5 GB for $20 per year), but as we'll see below, there's a good reason for this.

Winner: Amazon Cloud Drive

Amazon's Cloud Drive offers good value cloud storage for users needing a high capacity

Features

Above and beyond storage space, Apple's iCloud is unquestionably the most feature-packed service in our comparison. Aside from offering relatively basic extra functionality like its iWork productivity suite and photo sharing, iCloud provides a host of other features, including (but not limited to) cloud access to apps, the ability to switch seamlessly between devices when browsing on Safari, storage of passwords across devices and daily device backups that can restore your device to where you left off should it be wiped for any reason.

iCloud is far more than just a cloud storage platform for its users. It supports Apple's entire ecosystem in different ways. OneDrive and Google Drive, meanwhile, are far more stripped down services, but they are not trying to be anything else. They both provide good free productivity offerings in Office Online and Google Docs, and it has to be said that the ubiquitous familiarity with Microsoft Office plays in OneDrive's favor here. But whether or not you need all the bells and whistles that Apple offers, the functionality is still there and can't be said to be anything other than impressive.

Of the two remaining services, Dropbox offers an auto-camera-backup feature and Amazon Cloud Drive will sync any music stored with Cloud Player so that it can be easily listened to.

Winner: Apple iCloud

Apple's iCloud provides a variety of additional features that support iOS

Interface

When many people think of tech design, they automatically think of Apple. iCloud is certainly intuitive and looks slick, but so too does OneDrive. In terms of design, however, OneDrive has one other benefit over iCloud. Microsoft's ubiquity, as mentioned earlier, provides a familiarity among users that design alone can't create. Although Apple products are widely used, Microsoft products have been exposed to more users over the years. As such, not only is OneDrive good looking and intuitive, but it is even easier to use because users are so comfortable with Microsoft's approach to interface design.

As with many of its other products, design often seems to be an afterthought with Google. That's not to say that its products, or Drive in particular, look bad. They tend to offer a stripped down and very simple interface, which is neither difficult to use or hugely intuitive. Dropbox and Amazon Cloud Drive, meanwhile, provide only very simple interfaces for file browsing.

Winner: Microsoft OneDrive

Conclusion

Although it seems a little strange to say it, as an avid Google and Drive user, for those starting from scratch, Microsoft OneDrive is the cloud storage platform I would recommend. Each of the options featured here have their merits and other people will have reasons for choosing otherwise, but, for me, OneDrive ticks the most boxes.

It is accessible on the most platforms, provides a good amount of free storage space from sign-up, offers well priced upgrades for more storage, has the excellent Office Online deeply integrated into it, and benefits from a slick and easy-to-use design.

Overall winner: Microsoft OneDrive

About the Author
Stu Robarts Stu is a tech writer based in Liverpool, UK. He has previously worked on global digital estate management at Amaze and headed up digital strategy for FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology). He likes cups of tea, bacon sandwiches and RSS feeds.   All articles by Stu Robarts
22 Comments

i have used quite a number of cloud storage provider over the years

and aside from the mentioned list, theres also others which i think is good, but i'll just list my fav.

BOX, which is my current favourite for personal storage and sharing. they give free 50GB free account from time to time (i'm on the free 50GB).

OWNCLOUD, self-deployable, scalable and customizable solutions and my favourite for business purposes.

milkboy
28th February, 2014 @ 07:35 am PST

The number of flaws in this article are legion. Lets just point out a couple of the basics.

1) I searched. No where in this article is the word 'security' used. If I'm using a cloud service, I want some basic assumption that what I put there is private. Microsoft has a documented history of looking into files stored on SkyDrive, and banning users if they find the files offensive. I will have nothing to do with them for this reason only.

Directly from the TOS for a Microsoft account: "3.3. What does Microsoft do with my content? When you upload your content to the services, you agree that it may be used, modified, adapted, saved, reproduced, distributed, and displayed to the extent necessary to protect you and to provide, protect and improve Microsoft products and services. For example, we may occasionally use automated means to isolate information from email, chats, or photos in order to help detect and protect against spam and malware, or to improve the services with new features that makes them easier to use."

2) Apple's iDrive is an integrated API for use with Apple products. I would hardly lump it in with Dropbox as a cloud storage system. It's prone to failure and inconsistent behaviour, difficult to manage, and has virtually no team / group services (how do you share a single document privately with a group you're working with?)

3) The 'interface' win for Skydrive is laughable. "It wins because everyone knows microsoft stuff, right?" - what an absurd statement. Microsoft's interface designs change daily, with no consistency, very little UX application, and just plain bad choices. Dropbox probably has the cleanest interface of all the services. SkyDrive is NOT a microsoft desktop application, it's a webservice, with a web interface. Everyone knows how to use web browsers, so why isn't that applied?

4) Last but not least, you give Microsoft the win for this inane statement "Although iOS and Android dominate the mobile landscape, Windows Phone has recently been confirmed as the fastest growing mobile OS and so, all things considered, that's enough to give OneDrive the edge." - the 'fastest growing mobile OS' is an absurd statement. If there are 5 windows mobile phones out there, and another 5 are launched, that's a 100% increase! The fastest growing platform! According to Gartner Research, Windows Mobile has 3% of the marketplace. Blackberry has 2.7%. Dropbox is available on Blackberry, IOS, Android, Windows Phone, Symbian, MeeGo, Mac Desktop, Linux, and of course, desktop Windows. Other than Microsoft platforms, Onedrive supports only OSX, iOS, and Android. How can you possibly support OneDrive having better platform support?

Dave Shevett
28th February, 2014 @ 08:46 am PST

Everything here is true, and I use a few of these services myself for casual file transfers that are too large for email attachments, etc. The one dealbreaker for me, however, and the reason I will not use any of these to store personal information, photos, or anything else that matters to me, is that none of them have client side encryption. Every day, another article appears detailing how easy it is for private documents, photos, or videos to wind up in the hands of people or organizations for whom they were never intended. So the last thing I would ever do is entrust my documents or photos to a service that is wide-open to theft. Yes, I could encrypt everything before I send it up, but why should I have to go through that trouble when perfectly adequate services are available that do this for me, and also operate on all of the systems that I use, including Linux , Windows, and Android? SpiderOak is one that meets all of these requirements , and I'm sure there are others. So I would strongly advise that users think long and hard before placing photos of their children, or their tax documents, strategic business documents, or anything else into cloud storage without considering the risks.

Ron_S
28th February, 2014 @ 11:36 am PST

Not really seeing the added features of iCloud mentioned in this story that are somehow better than either Google Drive or OneDrive. I have a Mac and an iPad, I have logged into iCloud both from the web page and the settings and not seeing anything other than they do have a "find your device" settings.

I also run a Surface RT and am in the OneDrive (SkyDrive) a lot. It seems to be on par with iCloud.

Rann Xeroxx
28th February, 2014 @ 11:38 am PST

Before I did the change from Windows 7 to Windows 8 I was able to access ALL the files from my main PC using a remote desktop like feature built into the SkyDrive Web Application as long as your hardware was actually online.

No messing around with putting needed files into specific folders in order to access them while on the go or stuff like that... Kinda miss that feature wherever it went since Windows 8 and it's native integration of SkyDrive - Used to have a Desktop Client which made the remote desktop feature possible.

Ah well... For now I changed to Bittorrent Sync to keep automatic Backups across all my hardware without the need to think twice.

Has neither a cost attached to it nor does it come with any restrictions and it's storage space is only limited by your own hardware, what's more to ask for?

Gaëtan Mahon
28th February, 2014 @ 01:05 pm PST

I run Linux, Android and Windows 8 at home and interact with apple and windows xp users - dropbox has been the easiest service for me to use.

I find the tablet version of google drive a little more useful than the dropbox version but both fail in tablet/phone versions since they seem to be designed to not sync files locally (unless specific files are selected for local sync). both these services need to allow a configuration option to allow all files to be available offline when device is not online ( and also to save on bandwidth costs)

Makda
28th February, 2014 @ 01:39 pm PST

The only one that I would consider paying for is Amazon Cloud. A while back they offered 20 Gb with unlimited MP3 storage for $20 a year. With the unlimited MP3 storage I have not come close to filling the 20 gigabytes up...

GvillaThrilla
28th February, 2014 @ 01:58 pm PST

Good comparison.

I wonder how long it will be before Microsoft needs to change the name of their Cloud again. There is a internet hosting company by the name of One and they even offer a Cloud solution among their services, so I can't imagine them being happy and for sure Microsoft is more in conflict with them than with Sky media.

BZD
1st March, 2014 @ 04:12 am PST

So I am pretty happy with dropbox and one drive now because I was able to get over 100gb of space for "nothing" and what I mean by that is with dropbox I searched how to get free space and ended up getting 50gb for no cost. I also got the s4 and when you setup the phone it gives you 50gb for free (1yr only) and then with one drive I was able to get 100gb by using bing search on my browser and use there reward system to get 100gb for nothing other then sometimes not getting as good of search results as Google but hey it got me 100gb cloud space for a 1yr now.

Daniel Bennett
1st March, 2014 @ 03:22 pm PST

"Although iOS and Android dominate the mobile landscape, Windows Phone has recently been confirmed as the fastest growing mobile OS and so, all things considered, that's enough to give OneDrive the edge."

LOL—WOW Stu! Last time I checked, Windows OS comes in at a VERY distant third of mobile OSs after Android and iOS and through some kind of pretzel logic known only to you, you convince yourself that gives Microsoft some kind of advantage.

I won't be using you to place my bets on the ponies—that's for sure!

yrag
2nd March, 2014 @ 06:59 pm PST

Putting my 2 cents worth in...

I use both Mac & Windows PC's and after testing all these drives and others I've found and settled on the Wuala drive as the most useful cross platform drive. All these mentioned drives have little idiosyncrasies that end up frustrating you on multiple platforms. Wuala also encrypts you data on their drive and in transit.

Wayne Campbell
3rd March, 2014 @ 08:34 pm PST

That's a nice comparison, but I recently found I use cloud drives less and less. Whatever your limit is, you're going to hit it sooner than later, and then if you need to share anything, you have to do a lot of shuffling between your cloud drive and local drive… I think it's much better to use the cloud only for online backup. I now share everything I have to share with someone through Filemail.com 

You can use it to send any number of files up to 30GB each for free, no registration needed, no questions asked, and with great transfer speeds.

zero_sum
5th March, 2014 @ 05:51 am PST

It irritates me that most of these "comparison" articles seem to be written by someone who doesn't actually use the technology in real life, they are based on concepts rather than realities. iCloud isn't even a contender for anyone who wants to collaborate because it doesn't function outside of the Apple eco-system, it's Apple's Achilles heel.

Wuala since some people mentioned it, yes has arguably the best security out there but it's also got a cumbersome UI, poor updating, etc. it simply doesn't compare in terms of real usability.

I much prefer Sugarsync to Dropbox (Dropbox is easily the easiest to use of all the services out there but Sugarsync has done a good job of catching up, is cheaper at higher volumes (discontinuing the free version has made a lot of people mad but then again why cater to clients who aren't going to pay for it anyway?) and has way more functionality). Specifically, there are two significant advantages (several other minor ones but these are the most important). 1) the ability to sync folders found on multiple drives, basically if you want to sync content from multiple drives on Dropbox, Onedrive, or Google Drive you're screwed. 2) Sugarsync Drive, which is very useful in terms of accessing your files for example playing music and video, without actually needing to download the files locally (you can try doing something similar through the browser on say Drive but it's extremely cumbersome, little beats the practicality of moving around files as you do normally and locally, which Sugarsync offers without actually needing to sync them all. For these reasons I opt for Sugarsync over Dropbox.

Unfortunately, this doesn't eliminate OneDrive and Drive to get us down to the coveted single app because the ability to collaborate on documents with co-workers, friends, etc. is extremely powerful and only available in those two. Frankly, until November Drive destroyed OneDrive in this respect because the co-editing in Office Web Apps was horrible, while it was brilliant in Drive. However, Drive has very limited functionality relatively speaking, doesn't look good, etc. and so now with actually very competitive real time co-editing in OneDrive it's hard to argue for Drive (Drive also had much better support for mobile platforms where it again performed very well). The question though comes down to what platform you use. For example, if you use Gmail (bad decision I'd say as it has an awful UI, granted it is improving but still very unsatisfactory, which is tolerable only because most of the competitive services either aren't much better or are worse, definitely not on par with Outlook or Apple Mail) Drive makes sense because it's so well integrated. For example, the ability to save attachments directly from Gmail to Drive is a great feature. Long term, I'd bet on OneDrive nailing the features Drive has them beat on quicker than Drive catching up to the features OneDrive has mastered, and OneDrive is cheaper, but is also simply lacking more features, you can't scale storage as high (who the idiot was who thought it would be a good idea to cap storage I can buy at 200 GB I don't know, but it's a dumb idea, I should be able to buy as much as I want if I'm willing to pay for it), etc.

Overall, I'd say the optimal blend is Sugarsync and OneDrive if you're willing to go all in on the Microsoft platform and stick away from Google in terms of (don't use Hangouts, don't use Gmail, don't worry about Google+), you can still use Android, which is going to rule the roost for a while. This should be pretty straight forward, use Office 365 with Skype (I hate to say this because Skype is such a crap product but they are thankfully working on improving it substantially and hopefully that will pay off in the next 12 months), Outlook (Outlook.com is also a crap service, but Outlook Web Apps for Exchange is actually fairly decent and Exchange itself is radically superior to Google Apps just like Office is radically superior to Google docs).

Michael Bruce Rosmer
5th March, 2014 @ 08:22 pm PST

If the writers of these articles are meant to write 1000 words about something they are interested in but not experts there will always be someone who knows better to criticise but at least that grows the article. Most of the articles are a Regurgitation of information and input from other people talking about a similar theme.

Joseph Brown
5th April, 2014 @ 09:11 pm PDT

The fact that comments and different insights result in growth of the article is something hardly anyone can't agree on. However, one can not disprove the importance of security and privacy of files you store in your 'cloud'. Even when not knowing a single thing about security it's important that you mention the importance of this factor when looking at the equation 'to use a cloud' or 'not to use a cloud' as a storage medium. The rising mindset '''I've got nothing to hide so privacy is not important''' really pisses me off. Honestly I'm a total noob so no disrespect for the author but what I do know is that when you leak sensitive material of the company you work for, or private information about your client when being a lawyer,... it's very possible you will be held liable for the caused damages. This because you agree with the terms of the 'cloud program', these terms will often push the liability relating to security weaknesses on the shoulders of the users. When you lock your car and you leave your Iphone, laptop,... in your car and they steal your Iphone and laptop, in our country you're not insured for this because you didn't act like a "cautious and thoughtful person". When keeping this type of reasoning in mind and looking at the insurance VISA gives you or the bank,...when storing sensitive information in your cloud concerning them, do not be surprised if you don't see your money back. That's maybe extreme ok... but it's for. example also very easy to see a pattern when you go on vacation each year when you store all your family pictures in your cloud etc... Just saying only use it for music and insignificant things when security is not included.

TheMuffinman
14th April, 2014 @ 05:58 pm PDT

Fascinating read. I wanted to suggest collatebox as a nice alternative to google docs . Good secure file sharing as well.

Marushka Monette
25th April, 2014 @ 10:31 pm PDT

In terms of security the solution I use is a combination of DropBox with nCryptedCloud

nCrypted runs over top of DropBox to encrypt all my DropBox data so even if someone (including dropbox themselves) had access to my dropbox account the files are encrypted there. The app is free.

I would like to see a combination cloud storage/NAS solution that is decentralized. For instance I would have a 10TB NAS, I would use ~5 of it, but 5 of it would be used as an encrypted off site backup of other peoples data but because I am hosting data for other people there is no monthly fees associated after the initial hardware costs. My push/pull speeds would be fast because I would have a local cache and the NAS would quietly sync files in 24 hours snapshots at off peak times in the background so it wouldn't crush my connection either. If I want a level of service that mirrors 2 copies of my data on "the cloud" I would need 15TB to get 5TB of storage so I am contributing into the system what I am getting out out of it. At capacities beyond 200G or so its a much cheaper solution with faster performance because of local caching.

Daishi
16th May, 2014 @ 07:16 pm PDT

i would to suggest everyone better go for copy drive which gives a stunning 15 gb of free cloud space once you sign up.

Prabal Shrivastava
2nd July, 2014 @ 08:27 pm PDT

Check out https://www.mydigipack.com/

Free Infinite Storage For Your Photos and Videos

you can access your photos and videos on your SmartTV, Desktop, Web, and mobile devices.

Lior Solomon
14th July, 2014 @ 08:06 pm PDT

Since last year, Sugarsync was one step ahead with its ability to synch selected folders. Today, it is no longer free.

I found only Cubby to be an effective substitute. It really allows for choosing folders, then, on the other device, it asks for merge or add the folder, like Sugarsync.

Same policy; 5 Gb plus one Gb for each friend you bring to Cubby.

Antonio Galli
6th August, 2014 @ 01:41 am PDT

OneDrive doesn't allow you to drag and drop more than 100 files at a time. You have to use the desktop app to do folders with more than 100 files in them...lame! Dropbox has no issue with drag and drop of folders with more than 100 files.

Richard Rico
16th October, 2014 @ 06:14 am PDT

According to Amazon Customer Support, they will no longer distribute their Cloud Drive for PC application. There is a picture sync application for PC's, but, going forward, no generic file syncing application.

I found this decision astounding, as it seems to me that it would be the death knell for Amazon Cloud Drive.

I was an early adopter of their Cloud Drive, and especially loved it when Cloud Drive and Cloud Player were linked. Since the breakup of the two I've been less happy with either. This latest absurd decision has left me wondering if I should continue to give them my money, especially since I'm primarily a PC user!

Amazon has made so many changes to Cloud Drive and, especially, Cloud Player, or whatever they're calling it this month, that I can't keep up. One thing is for sure, Amazon can't seem to decide what it wants to do with its cloud storage offerings!

George Karas
18th October, 2014 @ 06:21 pm PDT
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