Cloud Stor­age Show­down

A Com­par­i­son of To­day’s Top Ser­vices

iPhone Life Magazine - - Productivity - By Char­ity Kountz

t's a great time to be in the mar­ket for a cloud stor­age ser­vice. With mo­bile de­vices at the cen­ter of so much that we do, onthe-go ac­cess to your doc­u­ments, pho­tos, videos, and mu­sic is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly im­por­tant. In the last year, dig­i­tal stor­age prices have dropped pre­cip­i­tously, and af­ter a year full of cy­ber se­cu­rity con­cerns, providers are strength­en­ing mea­sures to pro­tect their cus­tomers' pri­vate data. Read on to learn the strengths and weak­nesses of a hand­ful of in­dus­try lead­ers: Drop­box, Google Drive, iCloud, Box, and the new­est ad­di­tion, Ama­zon Cloud Drive.

IHow Cloud Stor­age Works

In­stead of stor­ing your doc­u­ments and pho­tos di­rectly on your hard drive, cloud stor­age ser­vices al­low you to upload your data to a re­mote third-party lo­ca­tion that you can ac­cess on­line. Typ­i­cally, th­ese ser­vices use a com­bi­na­tion of ap­pli­ca­tion pro­gram­ming in­ter­faces (APIs) that gov­ern the look, feel, and func­tion of the soft­ware. Un­like USB drives, which can risk be­ing lost or stolen, or your com­puter, which can un­ex­pect­edly fail, cloud stor­age is an ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion for stor­ing files with­out the frus­tra­tion of hav­ing to keep copies on mul­ti­ple de­vices.


Launched in 2008, this San Fran­cisco-based cloud ser­vice com­pany serves over 300 mil­lion users. One of the main rea­sons Drop­box is so popular is be­cause it's re­li­able and easy to use, al­low­ing you to syn­chro­nize your files be­tween mul­ti­ple de­vices and of­fer­ing one of the sim­plest user in­ter­faces of any cloud stor­age ser­vice cur­rently avail­able. Best of all, there is no size limit on the files you upload—un­less you are up­load­ing them through the web­site, in which case there is a 10 MB limit. Un­for­tu­nately, there isn't a range of stor­age op­tions avail­able out­side of the free 2 GB you ini­tially re­ceive. You can ei­ther pur­chase 1 TB of space—cur­rently priced at $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year—or you can re­ceive 500 MB of ad­di­tional stor­age for ev­ery new user you re­fer (up to 18 GB to­tal).

Nu­mer­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions have raised con­cerns over Drop­box's pri­vacy and terms of ser­vice, es­pe­cially when it comes to stor­ing sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion. As a re­sult of this pres­sure, Drop­box re­leased a trans­parency re­port de­tail­ing gov­ern­ment re­quests for ac­cess to users' in­for­ma­tion in 2014; how­ever, users are still ad­vised by IT pro­fes­sion­als to use cau­tion when up­load­ing con­fi­den­tial doc­u­ments.

Google Drive

Google Drive has been the go-to choice for Google fans since the cloud ser­vice's re­lease in 2012. The cross-plat­form ap­pli­ca­tion syncs files to all your de­vices and works well with Google's many other free ser­vices, in­clud­ing Google Docs. Gmail users can by­pass the 25 MB email size lim­i­ta­tion by link­ing to Google Drive files, rather than at­tach­ing them in the email. You can keep your files pri­vate or share them pub­licly, in which case they be­come search­able by Google's search en­gine.

While Drive comes with a gen­er­ous 15 GB of free stor­age, keep in mind that it's shared be­tween Google Drive, Gmail, and Google+ Pho­tos. Pay­ing for ad­di­tional stor­age with Google is as­ton­ish­ingly cheap, start­ing at $1.99/month for 100 GB.

In an ef­fort to boost se­cu­rity, Google has col­lab­o­rated with Drop­box to cre­ate a part­ner­ship with re­search and devel­op­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion Sim­ply Se­cure. Users of ei­ther Google Drive or Drop­box should ex­pect to see se­cu­rity changes in the fu­ture as this col­lab­o­ra­tion gains ground.


For those of you in­vested in the Ap­ple ecosys­tem, iCloud may be the sim­plest so­lu­tion. While limited his­tor­i­cally com­pared to its ri­vals, Ap­ple's re­cent re­lease of iCloud Drive, iCloud Photo Li­brary, and Fam­ily Shar­ing make it a much more at­trac­tive of­fer.

With iCloud Drive, you can now save and sync any file across your desk­top and iOS de­vices. For in­stance, on a Mac, you can save a Pages doc­u­ment to iCloud Drive in your Finder, and it will ap­pear in the Pages app on your iPhone. With Ap­ple's over­hauled photo man­age­ment sys­tem, you can now back up pho­tos and videos taken on your iPhone and ac­cess them on­line at (for more on iCloud Photo Li­brary, see pg. 34).

One of the great­est fea­tures about iCloud is Fam­ily Shar­ing, which lets up to six fam­ily mem­bers share files like mu­sic,

books, and apps. iCloud also seam­lessly in­te­grates with iTunes, al­low­ing you to ac­cess pur­chases you made on any de­vice.

Com­pared to Google Drive's 15 GB, iCloud of­fers a mea­ger 5 GB of free space, although the cost of ad­di­tional stor­age is only $0.99/month for 20 GB.

The main draw­back with iCloud is pretty ob­vi­ous—if you own an An­droid or Win­dows mo­bile de­vice in ad­di­tion to an Ap­ple prod­uct, you can­not ac­cess your iCloud files from those de­vices; iCloud is only com­pat­i­ble with iOS de­vices and your PC, Mac, or Win­dows com­puter.


Cloud stor­age ser­vice Box launched in 2005, earn­ing a strong rep­u­ta­tion for its en­ter­prise so­lu­tions. While Box of­fers some ba­sic ser­vices for per­sonal use, in­clud­ing a rather gen­er­ous 10 GB of free stor­age, its strong­est fea­tures are for busi­ness users. The starter ser­vice—which al­lows for 3-10 users, 100 GB stor­age, and a max­i­mum 2 GB file size—is $5 per user per month. You can com­ment and as­sign tasks to doc­u­ments and as­sign gran­u­lar per­mis­sions when shar­ing files rang­ing from “view only” to “upload only.” Box also of­fers en­ter­prise-level fea­tures that al­low for track­ing, re­port­ing, and man­ag­ing through ac­tiv­ity re­ports.

Ama­zon Cloud Drive

It should be no sur­prise that Ama­zon—the mar­ket jug­ger­naut set on rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing ev­ery in­dus­try it touches—re­cently re­leased a new cloud stor­age so­lu­tion. Cloud Drive's main fo- cus is on me­dia sync­ing. While you can sync doc­u­ments via the desk­top app on your Mac or PC, only pho­tos and videos will sync to the Cloud Drive mo­bile app.

Ama­zon Cloud Drive of­fers un­lim­ited photo stor­age to Ama­zon Prime mem­bers and Ama­zon Fire de­vice own­ers, and au­to­mat­i­cally backs up from pic­tures from your phone to the cloud server when you're con­nected to Wi-Fi.

While Ama­zon of­fers 5 GB of stor­age free, paid plans start at a very eco­nom­i­cal $10 per year for 20 GB. That's a cost of only $0.83 per month—by far the cheap­est stor­age so­lu­tion of its class. Even the 100 GB tier of ser­vices is ex­tremely eco­nom­i­cal at $50 per year ($4.16 per month). Higher space op­tions are dramatically more ex­pen­sive, though, with the 1 TB op­tion cost­ing a whop­ping $500 per year ($41.66 per month). If you don't need more than 100 GB of space and you're mainly in­ter­ested in sync­ing pho­tos and videos, Ama­zon Cloud Drive is a great al­ter­na­tive to Drop­box or Google Drive.

A Few Fi­nal Notes about Cloud Stor­age

While you're ex­plor­ing th­ese dif­fer­ent ser­vices, don't be afraid to make the most of all the free stor­age you can from each ser­vice. Even­tu­ally, how­ever, you may find it sim­plest to pay for your fa­vorite cloud ser­vice to han­dle all your stor­age needs.

Char­ity Kountz is a free­lance writer and au­thor of the award-win­ning chil­dren’s book Ja­son, Lizzy and the Snow­man Vil­lage. An ag­gres­sive re­searcher ca­pa­ble of cov­er­ing a wide range of topic ar­eas in­clud­ing busi­ness, ed­u­ca­tion, IT, and fi­nance, she en­joys tack­ling new chal­lenges in writ­ing and be­yond. Char­ity’s non­fic­tion work has been pub­lished by Cold­well Banker, Strat­egy Mag­a­zine, and Moxie Lady.

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