Here at LDLdesigns we use Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, SkyDrive, and several other cloud services. Each service providers has it's similarities and differences, but questions that first come to mind are:
- What does the service provider offer and how much?
- How easy is it to use?
- What OS(operating system) or devices(tablets, pads, phones) does it cover?
Let's take a look at some comparisons and features between the service providers.
|Dropbox||Apple iCloud||Google Drive||Microsoft SkyDrive|
|Free space: 2GB||Free space: 5GB||Free space: 5GB||Free space: 7GB|
|Premium space: $99/year for 100GB||Premium space: $100/year for 50GB||Premium space: $60/year for 100GB||Premium space: $50/year for 100GB|
|File size limit: Unlimited||File size limit: 25MB free/250MB paid||File size limit: 10GB||File size limit: 2GB|
|Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, BlackBerry||Platforms: Mac, iOS, Windows||Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android||Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone|
|Best for: Seamless syncing||Best for: Heavy iTunes/Mac users||Best for: Web apps||Best for: Windows/Office integrationFree space|
|* Note premium space figures are only one example of several price plans on each service.|
Not only do these services keep data in sync across computers and mobile devices, they provide a cloud-based backup too.
There are premium options if you want to pay for more space. An extra 100GB for a year will cost you $99 on Dropbox, $60 on Google Drive, $50 on SkyDrive. iCloud however maxes out at 50GB which will set you back $100 for the year.
Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive provide desktop clients for Mac and Windows (with Dropbox offering an official Linux tool too). Each service designates a hard-drive folder, and anything saved here is automatically synced to the cloud and your other devices.There's little to choose between the services, though Dropbox feels the more polished solution - it just works.
iCloud is tightly integrated into the Mac OS and iOS apps, and its focus is more towards being an invisible syncing and backup solution, rather than a catch-all digital locker.
On the mobile side, Dropbox and SkyDrive are currently the only services available officially on Windows Phone.
Dropbox, Google Drive, and SkyDriveSkyDrive are all represented on iOS and Android. iCloud is baked into iOS, and hasn't yet been made available for other platforms.
Online Apps and Access
A key part of Google Drive is its online suite of apps (Google Docs). Drive includes web-based tools for creating documents, presentations and spreadsheets, and these files don't count towards your storage quota.
SkyDrive includes stripped-down versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint that run in the browser. These are basic tools, but they will be adequate for many casual users.
While Dropbox doesn't offer browser-based apps, it does have a flexible web interface listing your folders and files. Many file types - covering PDFs, documents, video, photos and music - can be viewed in the browser, even if there are no editing features.
iCloud includes notes, contacts, calendar tools, and iwork apps, but no web-based office suite, and no online file explorer to take a look at your content.
Sharing and collaboration
Dropbox has perfected the art of sharing files and folders on the web - it's as easy as passing along a URL, whether or not the recipient also uses Dropbox.
SkyDrive and Google Drive go further, enabling you to share files with anyone over the internet and even work on documents, spreadsheets and presentations with other users simultaneously, in the cloud.
As yet, iCloud doesn't offer web access, easy file sharing or collaboration - its focus is more on single users.
It's difficult to compare these products directly against each other - remember that iCloud includes access to all your iTunes purchases (and doesn't count them against your storage quota), while Google has its own Music service for storing MP3s in the cloud for free.
iCloud is a no-brainer for anyone with an idevice or a Mac, but its support for other platforms and web access is weak, at least for now.
Likewise, SkyDrive is primarily of interest to users of Microsoft products - it integrates well with Windows 8 and Windows Phone, and the web-based versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint can come in very handy.
As Google lives and breathes the web, it's no surprise that Google Drive is fast and browser-friendly, with an online office suite that's always getting better. Its desktop and mobile clients aren't as polished, but they are there, and work well enough.
This leaves Dropbox, which, right from its early days, has felt like a native operating system feature. In terms of syncing anything to anywhere, it remains the tool to beat.
LDLdesigns recommends Dropbox and Google Drive to our team and clients as our first choice for ease of use, tools, and mobility.
Other Notable Cloud Service Providers
For personal or business you may want to check out Mozy. Mozy has been around for quite some time and offers good prices and easy to use apps to securely backup your information.
Box which has become popular. Box works with Google Apps and Salesforce and access Box on mobile devices along with new level of content management security, and role-based access controls.
Amazon which also offers a plethora of services for both business and personal and takes care of their Kindle customers with additional storage space options.
For many more additional providers you may check out your cable, cellular phone, or hosting company. Many companies now offer cloud services.
Personal Cloud Server
If your a bit tech savvy you may also purchase your own cloud server. Many models are available from Western Digital, Akitio, Iomega, and Toshiba; just to name a few.
If you just can't find the right solution or don't trust online data storage then personal drives are affordable and there's always pencil and paper...lol