TechLife Australia

Cloud storage compared



CLOUD STORAGE HAS become a vitally important tool for modern computer users. You can use it for sharing files and photos with others, for syncing media and documents between your various devices, as well as for collaborat­ing with others and for keeping a secure copy of your important documents online.

But which of the many available services should you use? We’ll take a look at the top five.


QUITE SIMPLY, NO cloud service is as capable or flexible as Google Drive. Google has taken the core concept of online storage and branched it out in a thousand different ways. Its media management is exceptiona­l. Google Photos offers editing tools and excellent tagging and management, while Google Play Music and Videos will stream files of unlimited size from your Google Drive. Docs, its cloud office suite, is also first class.

The recently updated apps are great on both mobile and desktop platforms, and the Backup and Sync tool lets you use Drive as a genuine cloud backup service with 30-day file recovery and versioning. There are powerful collaborat­ive tools available now as well. They’re not up to the standard of Dropbox just yet, but the apps make it easy to share files with other people and create shared folders.

As an overall cloud solution, Google Drive is currently our top pick. It’s fast, feature rich, widely supported by third-party apps and does pretty much everything you want a cloud storage tool to do. Dropbox still has the edge when it comes to group collaborat­ion, but even that is a near-run thing now.


DROPBOX HAS MORE features than any of its competitor­s — if you’re willing to pay for them. Its free Basic account is perhaps the stingiest of all services, with just 2GB on offer. Upgrade to Plus and you get access to a host of features like Office integratio­n, commenting systems and remote wiping of mobile devices. Even on the Basic account, Dropbox has some of the best collaborat­ion tools in the business. Sharing documents with one or multiple people is easy; there are commenting and versioning systems; useful notificati­on tools; shared folders with manageable permission­s and more. The Dropbox API is well developed and widely available, so there are plenty of third-party apps. For people worried about data loss, Dropbox has file versioning and recovery for up to 30 days.

It does have weaknesses. Its document tool, Dropbox Paper, can’t compete with Google Docs or Microsoft Office. Its media management is uninspirin­g, as well — although you can stream videos of unlimited length. But if those things are unimportan­t to you, and you’re mostly interested in team collaborat­ion, then Dropbox can’t be beat.

Microsoft OneDrive BEST BUNDLED WITH OFFICE 365.

WE CAN THINK of two reasons someone might choose to use Microsoft OneDrive: the Office 365 bundle, and laziness. The former is really OneDrive’s biggest selling point, a subscripti­on that includes both a OneDrive account with 1TB or 5TB of storage and access to the world’s most popular office suite. It’s a genuinely good deal, being cheaper than most of the competitio­n and including an excellent office suite to boot. The second reason: a lot of people use OneDrive because it’s built into Windows, so they may as well just use it.

Those people are doing themselves a disservice. As a cloud storage tool, OneDrive is inferior to both Google Drive and Dropbox. Its collaborat­ion and media tools are passable, but Google has better media support and a more intuitive design, while Dropbox does a lot better when it comes to sharing files with other people. It’s certainly not a bad solution, and Microsoft has tried to keep up with its main competitor­s when it comes to media, collaborat­ion and recovery, but it’s still behind both Google and Dropbox, and you’d be better off with either of those solutions — unless you really need Office 365.


MUCH LIKE ONEDRIVE on Windows, iCloud is the inertia option for iOS and MacOS users, its prime virtue being that it’s built into those operating systems. That said, it has improved considerab­ly in the last year. The ability to sync whole folders into the iCloud is a big improvemen­t, and iWork for iCloud has seen continuous improvemen­t over the past few years and is now a competent office suite.

It’s also very user friendly, at least on Apple platforms where it does a lot of behind-thescenes work to make sure that your files, contacts, mail and calendar just appear magically wherever you are. On other platforms, it’s not so much fun, with a fiddly client on Windows and close to non-existent Android support. It also doesn’t like to play with non-Apple file types, so there are many types of docs you can’t view in the cloud.

It offers virtually unlimited storage for iTunes and works well with most Apple apps. But its collaborat­ion tools are weak, its crossplatf­orm support poor and it’s inferior to Drive and Dropbox in terms of features. Only recommende­d if you’re all Apple, all the time.


AMAZON DRIVE ISN’T bad — it does what it says on the tin and the performanc­e is good enough, but it really doesn’t offer much beyond basic storage. There’s no office suite, no smart photo organisati­on other than ‘by date’ and only the most vanilla collaborat­ion and sharing features. You’re limited to streaming movies no longer than 20 minutes in length and the interface itself is not particular­ly polished. If you own a Kindle it has some virtue, since it can be used to store Kindle books and can automatica­lly be synced with the Kindle. But for that, you hardly need more than the 5GB that comes with the free account.

It’s not particular­ly cheap for Australian users, either. In the US, subscriber­s to Amazon Prime have the best deal, with unlimited photo storage — but right now, that’s not available to Australian users (don’t confuse it with Amazon Prime Video). Amazon has promised to make Prime available in Australia, but there was no date for this at the time of writing. When it does become available, our opinion on Amazon Drive may change. But for now, there are better options.

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