Cloud Storage: 5 Alternatives, What’s in It for You

It’s Cloud Storage Week, Dropbox rolled out an update to improve how its users can share things, Microsoft’s SkyDrive is getting a dedicated desktop app and a new feature set, and Google Drive Finally making its long awaited debut. The market suddenly became a lot more competitive, probably before we all realized it was necessary.

Although there are many more options out there, some serving specific niches, we’ve hand-picked what are arguably the most high-profile and consumer-friendly cloud storage services out there currently. We took them for a spin to see how well they stack up against each other, first with a brief overview on the table below and later with finer details, impressions and commentary. To give you a better idea which might best suit your needs.

Dropbox wasn’t the first cloud-based storage service on the market, but it certainly was the one that pioneered the seamless one-folder synchronization approach that everyone is now following: Toss any file into a preset folder and it Appears automatically in any other device linked to your account. Make an edit and everything is synced instantly. Renowned for its simplicity and ease of use, Dropbox doesn’t lag behind in terms of features with a version tracking system, easy sharing, collaboration options, and more.

Performance-wise Dropbox offers more flexibility than most competing services. You can change how fast it uploads and downloads files, which is great if you don’t want it to steal bandwidth from other important things, and if two devices are on the same network they’re on the LAN Will sync very fast.

The Dropbox client works seamlessly on every major platform – Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Blackberry – and you can access your files on any device with a browser via its clean and efficient web interface . Another important strength is that its popularity has led many third-party developers to integrate Dropbox synchronization functionality into their apps and services using public APIs.

Its main drawback? Dropbox only offers 2GB of storage for free, which compares unfavorably to rivals, but you can expand that up to 18GB without spending a dime by referring new users (500MB of bonus space to the app). Paid storage is also expensive: 50GB or 100GB of additional storage costs $9.99 or $19.99 per month.

google drive
The budding Google Drive offers drag-and-drop synchronization capabilities similar to Dropbox on the desktop, with clients available for Windows and OS X, but its web part is more robust than the latter. On the web, Drive ties in with a few other Drive apps for Google Docs and Chrome to support 30 types of files, so you can view or edit images and videos, work on documents, and more. A lot can be done inside the browser itself.

Sharing capabilities are also present, but as far as I can tell you can’t set permissions from the desktop client, so you’ll have to go to the web app and click on a few options, depending on whether You want to send by email, share with other users, or make a file public. You can set files to be view-only or make them editable.

Search is also a big part of Google Drive that — again, from the web interface — allows you to search by document type, owner, and other advanced filters. The service also has built-in OCR capabilities, so Google will scan any images on your Drive account for text and make them searchable, or if Google can decipher the content of your pictures (a landmark, for example) , you can just search by topic and the results will appear. It’s a really neat feature, though it may put off more privacy-conscious users – especially after checking out the TOS.

Google Drive is also available on Android and an iOS client is believed to be on the way. It comes with 5GB of free storage (Google Docs files don’t count towards that limit), and offers upgrade options like 25GB of additional storage for $2.49/month, 100GB of storage for $4.99/month, and 200GB for $9.99/month does.

Apple iCloud
Apple’s iCloud lacks many of the features available in cloud storage services like Dropbox or SkyDrive, but still stands to grab a fair share of the market for one simple reason: its deep integration with iOS. In fact, about 70% of the 350+ million iDevice users have access to iCloud, with over 100 million already using it.

This is a no-brainer if you’re in the Apple ecosystem. It is virtually transparent to the user and can synchronize and store your mail, contacts, calendars, documents, backups, etc. in the cloud.

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