The hot buzz word over the last few years has definitely been the “cloud”. The capacity to work anywhere, with all your files is a great advantage to anyone – all you need is an internet connection.
Cloud storage is now available to anyone with an email address, so today I’m going to review the most popular services and introduce a great application at the end that ties them all together.
Recently renamed from “SkyDrive” (you can blame BskyB for that), Microsoft’s cloud-based storage is for me, one of the best since it’s initial launch in 2007. It now offers 15GB of storage for a free account and you can get an extra 8GB on top, without paying a penny. Simply activate your camera roll backup (on Windows, WPhone, iOS or Android) and they’ll give you an extra 3GB. To get even more, you just have to refer a friend for 500MB a time (max 10 friends).
MS have some great plans available (for those that need more space). Pay £1.99 a month and get 100GB or £3.99 for 200GB. If that’s not enough, they offer a business plan with gets you 1TB of storage for £3.20 £1.60 a month, per user (1 year commitment upfront, currently 50% off*). If you’re an Office 365 subscriber, they bundle in some extra storage.
In terms of features, it pretty much has everything you’d expect (desktop syncing, mobile app, document history and versioning) but the business side really flexes it’s muscles with advanced administration and AD directory sync support.
OneDrive has an app for every (major) device out there: iOS, Android, Windows(Vista, 7 & 8) and WPhone. If you’ve got Windows 8.1 – it’s built in.
Google are really pushing Google Drive at the moment, and it’s clear to see why. Another 15GB free offering, they also have the advantage of having built-in document support straight from the browser (for those without MS Office packages). It was only launched 2 years ago and since then it’s accumulated around 190 million users.
For plans, there’s just the one “For Work” – $10 per user per month for unlimited storage. Sounds pretty beefy, but there isn’t any directory integration (only Google Apps). The price is also quite a lot higher than Microsoft’s, but there’s never any storage woes.
Google Drive’s features are a lot more personally focused and a couple really stand out from the crowd. If you’re a Gmail user, you can save attachments straight into your Drive. Using Google+, you can pop in photos straight from Drive and add a few enhancements. They also now boast over 100 3rd party apps that connect in with Drive that help you get more done. Things like programming & scripting, to faxing and even surveys. One of the most impressive things Google Drive can do, is scan a paper document from your phone and upload to Drive as a PDF – simply awesome.
Once again, all the favourite systems are supported and if anything it works best just from a browser. The document support and 3rd party apps make Google Drive one of the most flexible cloud drives out there.
Initially released in 2008, Dropbox has been one of the home favourites for a long time. It only offers 2GB of free storage – but it still has it’s merits. It reach over 100 million users back in 2012, then went on to reach the 300 million mark in May 2014.
Although lacking in storage size, Dropbox beats the competitors on sync speed. I’d never use it for large photo storing or for projects – but when it comes to needing to move things around quickly – it’s a hands-down winner. The desktop app integrates very quietly and just does it’s job (a nice green tick to say everything is a-okay!).
For pricing, it’s really lagging behind in it’s options. 100GB is £7.99 a month with a 17% annual discount, they also offer 200GB and 500GB – although it’s nothing to write home about. The business plan is really no where near as good as MS or Google either.
There are plenty of apps for Dropbox, but they just don’t seem as easy to use as the Google ones. No out of the box doc support, means that most people will opt for Drive if they don’t have an Office package of some sort.
In short, it’s a great solution for small files, getting little bits and pieces around or to a friend or client – but nothing more.
Formerly Box.net, Box is one of the two on this list that really boasts capacity. Launched in 2005, it’s been on the scene for some time and they’re never one to shy away from media attention.
The most important thing to take away from Box, is it’s pricing plans. They offer 4 plans that cater to anyone. The free package gives you 10GB (although they’re constantly running promos) with a max file size of 250MB. If you get the starter package, this gives you 100GB storage , 2GB file size and a max of 10 users at $5 a month – pretty good going really. The business package is unlimited and has a 5 user minimum requirement – but it’s great for small businesses that aren’t in one office.
The 3rd party app support is fantastic, having acquired a French firm recently – they’ve also given their app an overhaul, so all the usual suspects are supported. Features are lacking in the free version, which is it’s major pitfall – but the business solution does have SSO (Single Sign-On) with AD integration and 3rd Party SaaS integrations.
There’s not much else to tell you about Box, but it’s a great company that respects it’s users. They offer storage promotions quite regularly and it’s a reliable solution.
Finally, we come to MEGA (stylised). Kim Dotcom’s venture after the seizure of Megaupload, which has seen a steady growth since the Jan 2013 launch.
They offer 50GB straight away to new users, with three tiers of PRO plans available (500GB, 2TB and 4TB). The pricing is fairly similar to others in terms of per GB and you get a 17% discount on paying annually.
The mobile apps are well created and the desktop sync client does it’s job (even if it is a bit naggy at times). One of the stand-out features though are the Chrome and Firefox apps. These install straight into the browser and there is a notable difference in speed (compared to the web-based app).
One of the features that will set it apart in the future, is the MEGA Email and Chat. Designed to be very similar to Google’s in-built function, it will allow encrypted real-time chat with any MEGA user and video support too. This was expected early 2014, although no sign of it.
For those of you that are unaware, Jolicloud are a company that originally created Joli OS – a cloud-driven operating system that was from the Unix family. It was designed to be put on old computers and laptops to give them a new-lease of life – and it did. Jolicloud stopped development end of 2013, but the OS is now open-source and on GitHub.
The best thing to come out of this, is Jolicloud Drive – a web-based app that syncs all of the afore-mentioned cloud services. It’s free, which is amazing. I have at least one account with all the above services and with J-Drive, I can see them all at once wherever I am.
It has Google’s APIs built-in, to edit documents and it will play music and video out-of-the-box. The picture editor isn’t too bad, with some simple filters and editing tools.
If you really want to unlock it’s potential, then you need to go pro. The best feature is being able to have multiple accounts for one server (I have several Dropbox accounts) and .There is also a feature to move between cloud devices without having to fire up your PC or Laptop to shift them around in the file browser. It works out at £4 a month, or £40 a year upfront – which is pretty good for just those features alone.
There’s no mobile app for this yet, so it’s browser only (and works best with Chrome) – but the mobile site seems to work well – even if it is a bit clunky.
When you consider multiple accounts and the price, you can save yourself a tonne of money by not taking out pro accounts for all of them – and just utilising the free ones with a pro Jolicloud Drive account.
I hope that this review of the main services on offer allows you to make an informed decision on where to go for your cloud services. Having lots of options is half the battle and if you’re a startup business or even a power user – you can’t go wrong with “all of the above”!