Utilizing the cloud is a powerful idea that the vast majority of consumers are still completely unfamiliar with, even in an age where it becomes more relevant every day. In a recent survey by Business Insider, the company found that 51% of individuals believe that stormy weather can affect ‘the cloud’ – yep, it's that sad.
Today, we are taking a look at some of the top cloud storage options available for purchase. This comparison includes Microsoft’s OneDrive, Apple’s iCloud, Google Drive, and Dropbox. All of these services provide useful abilities one way or another, but which one is perfect for your needs? Today, we take a look.
A vast number of users looking to store their data in the cloud want to do it for free. With that question in mind, who gives the most without charging any money, and who is being stingy?
At the top of the scale are Microsoft’s OneDrive and Google Drive. Both services give users a whopping free 15 GB of storage space to start out. There are no hoops to jump through or friends to invite – simply sign up, activate the service, and you have a beautiful 15 GB of cloud storage at your disposable. If you want, inviting your friends also allows you to gain a hefty 1GB per user.
On the sadder side of things, Dropbox and iCloud give out the smallest amount of space for free. Dropbox provides only 2 GB of storage with a promise that you can gain more if you invite your friends to join (only handing out another 500 MB) – it’s like the candy crush of cloud storage. iCloud, on the contrary, gives you 5GB to start, a bit more than Dropbox, but still disappointing.
On the other hand, maybe you have decided that you truly need space in the cloud, and you are willing to shell out your hard earned money to do so. Well, it gets a bit easier now. Across the board, Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive, all offer 1 TB of cloud storage for only $9.99 a month.
OneDrive has the upper hand in this lineup though, as paying $9.99 not only gets you 1 TB of cloud storage, but also a subscription to Office 365 – the full Microsoft Office Suite always up to date with excellent applications available for a number of different mobile platforms.
What about iCloud? Apple’s online storage solution is 2x more expensive than any other option here. For 1 TB of cloud storage, you are going to be paying $19.99 a month. In addition, Apple counts your mail, calendar, and contacts against your cloud storage – a big disappointment.
Accessing your Data
Once you pay out (or don’t), you are going to want to access your data on every single device you possibly can. Google Drive, OneDrive, and Dropbox all support Windows and Mac operating systems. iCloud, on the other hand, only supports Mac operating systems. If you are looking for a solution that runs on Linux, Dropbox is your choice.
When you take out your mobile device, you are going to want to access your previous files on the go. All of the above-mentioned services (Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, and iCloud) support Apple’s iOS platforms. Google Drive, OneDrive, and Dropbox, also support Google’s Android platform.
Users of Blackberry device are in luck, as Dropbox still produces an application for Blackberry OS. The only platform with official support for Windows Phone is Microsoft’s OneDrive, although some other services, such as Dropbox, have had unofficial third party applications created to fit most of your needs.
On a final note, we have to talk about what mobile apps don’t allow you to access your entire online drive. We have to talk about this because Apple decided it was a good idea to have iCloud users only access certain files when mobile. Only supported applications can access the data on your drive if you are using an iOS device – quite ridiculous.
Sometimes, you don’t want your cloud storage to simply be a single folder on your PC; you want your cloud storage integrated into the entire system. While there are interesting hacks to trick Windows into using Dropbox for everything, only OneDrive and iCloud have a deep system integration.
As Microsoft users know, since Windows 8.1, Microsoft has been shoving OneDrive into its operating system full-force. In the Explorer window, OneDrive is presented as a viable option over the ‘old fashion’ local storage locations. Microsoft creates a hierarchy within its file browsing when utilizing OneDrive, so that it looks as if what simply another list of folders on the operating system – extremely native.
Apple also has deep iCloud integration into its Macintosh systems, but not nearly as fluid as Microsoft has done. iCloud automatically backs up specific items, which I appreciated, but when it comes to storing your files in the cloud, iCloud just appears to be another folder thrown into the mix – nothing special.
Lastly, let us take a look at what extra productivity options cloud storage solutions are trying to offer in order to gain an edge on the competition. Across the four different options we have been discussing, only Dropbox does not provide any form of online office suite.
Buying 1 TB of OneDrive space will give you access to Office 365 – the entire office suite online, offline, and on mobile devices. It is, by far, one of the best deals we have seen in a long time. If you aren’t going paid, you still have access to the online portion of Microsoft Office.
iCloud and Google Drive both give you access to their online office options. Google Docs and iWork both feel like stripped down versions of Microsoft Office, but for most users, we feel both would offer sufficient capabilities. iCloud offers no free offline version of its productivity solution, but users of Google Chrome can access Google Docs with a unique offline plugin.
We hate to make it sound like all we do is wave the Microsoft flag in pride, but OneDrive simply steals the competition when it comes to online storage. OneDrive offers equal pricing to its competitors while also providing great mobile apps and a subscription to Office 365. For the majority of people who use Windows PCs, it also has the tightest integration.
Dropbox and Google Drive are both excellent solutions, but each has their weakness – whether it be online productivity or free storage space. iCloud is another story, and, to be frank, we recommend staying away from it until Apple has an understanding of the cloud.
While I personally use a MacBook Pro running OS X, I continue to use Microsoft’s incredible OneDrive solution on my machine simply because I feel nothing else has come close to touching it. Oh, and Apple seriously has to work on its cloud service.
OVERALL WINNER: OneDriveFurther reading: Apple, Cloud, Dropbox, Google Docs, Google Drive, iCloud, Microsoft, Office 365, OneDrive, Storage