Note: this is a follow-up to last week’s explanation of cloud storage.
There are lots of companies that offer cloud storage, and several of them are quite well known. This post is going to focus on the services that I (subjectively) view as the major players, and which service is best for you.
I feel certain that there is no one cloud storage service that is best for everyone. Instead, I think that each has certain advantages depending on how you use it and which devices you use.
As I mentioned last week, I actually do not pay for storage from any of the companies that I will describe below. I use the free storage amount from several different companies: Dropbox, Google Drive, and iCloud from Apple.
This isn’t a very practical long-term solution, because I’ve got many more files on my computer and other devices than can fit in the free storage allotments. And the more providers I sign up for, the harder it gets to keep track of what files I’ve stored on which service.
So I recommend using the free storage space each provider offers as more of a trial run. You get to see how the service works without plunking down your money first. Once you decide which one works best for you, then decide how much storage you need to pay for.
I’ve only recently begun to feel that paying for a cloud storage subscription might be worth the money for my family. By using those three services, I’ve started to get an idea of which one I’d prefer to pay for.
So without further ado, here’s a comparison of the four main cloud storage providers.
Dropbox is the platform that really first made cloud storage usable for the ordinary folks like us. It’s also unique on this list because the company was created around this cloud storage service; the others on the list are branches of much larger tech companies.
Pricing: 2GB free…1TB $10/month
Pros: Available on almost any device, simple pricing plan, very customizable
Cons: Smallest amount of free space, not automatically integrated with Google, Apple, or Microsoft
Best for: People who own a mixture of devices, such as an iPhone, Windows PC, and Kindle Fire.
Formerly known as Google Docs, Google Drive is available with any Google or Gmail account. Included with Android phones, whose software is made by Google.
Pricing: 15GB free…100GB $2/mo…1TB $10/mo (Free space is shared with Gmail and Google+ storage)
Pros: Most free storage, familiar design to users of Gmail’s website/apps
Cons: Stores and shares files, but not many other features
Best for: Android phone users or people who use Google products heavily
Formerly SkyDrive, Microsoft has revamped their cloud storage service and OneDrive is a big part of their focus with the newer Windows operating systems.
Pricing: 15GB free…100GB $2/mo…200GB $4/mo
Pros: Works extremely well with Microsoft Office, generous free storage
Cons: File sharing not as simple as others
Best for: Microsoft Office users or those with newer Windows computers/tablets
iCloud Drive (Apple)
Formerly called just iCloud, Apple’s revamped storage service was updated this fall. iCloud Drive is notable for features tied in with Apple devices, such as backing up the entire device and locating the device if you lose it.
Pricing: 5GB free…20GB $1/mo…200GB $4/mo…500GB $10/mo…1TB $20/mo
Pros: Coordinates data and settings between multiple Apple devices, new family sharing helpful for family accounts
Cons: Less free storage, no Android app
Best for: Those with multiple Apple devices
As you can see, pricing is very competitive between the providers. I expect storage allowances to continue to rise in the coming years, making it even more feasible to store almost everything on your computer in the cloud.
To me, the biggest difference among the services is the integration with other software/hardware made by the companies.
Dropbox only does cloud storage, and is a good option for those with a variety of device types. Outside of those rare cases, I think it’s at a disadvantage because it’s not tied in with one of the other major companies.
For those who use Google or Apple products heavily, I think Google Drive or iCloud Drive will work really well. I use Apple products heavily and love the features of iCloud, and I’m sure the same is true for Google/Android fans.
OneDrive (the only one of these I haven’t personally used) seems like a great fit for those who use Microsoft Office often, or have a newer Windows PC or tablet. If you use the newer versions of Windows or Microsoft Office, I’d recommend giving OneDrive a try. It’s not as well known, but I see it as a great option for many people.
Which of these do you use, and what’s been your experience? Do you have a favorite I haven’t mentioned? Join the conversation below! I’d love to hear from you.
1 – Amazon also has a cloud storage service. Although I haven’t included it in this comparison, if you use Amazon frequently or own their devices (such as Kindles), consider checking out what they offer here.