Over the past few months, there has been a lot of development in the consumer cloud front. Whilst previously the common people were limited to a few user-friendly cloud services such as Dropbox, users now have a wider variety of choices, like Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive.
In my opinion, one of the most important features needed in a consumer cloud drive is the ability to have a designated folder that automatically syncs with the cloud services without any user interaction. Speaking from the perspective of a common user, no one likes having to think about backing up files, and having a folder that backs up without thought is a real benefit. Furthermore, when a disaster happens, such as a corrupt file or undo-able errors, users should have the option to roll back to a previous version of a file and continue working.
Because of the above consideration, the cloud service that I used most previously was Dropbox, as it was the only cloud drive with that feature. Dropbox provides users with 2GBs of free space, which can be increased up to 16GBs by referring friends to Dropbox. There is also a Dropbox application available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android, which provide easy access to view and change files. Files can also be downloaded and uploaded through the website. The only main mobile operating system that is not supported at the moment is the Windows phone, however I expect that to be supported as soon as the platform gains traction. Besides the free space, users have a wide selection of plans to choose from to upgrade their account. The biggest memory sized plan gives a maximum of 1TB worth of memory. Dropbox also have a variety of plans for business and educational use. On the Mac, Dropbox also works very well with Growl and it notifies the user when files have been updated, giving users an added sense of confidence that their files are safely backed up.
Even though Google Drive sounds new, it is actually only a rebranding of an existing Google product, Google Docs. Google Docs previously permitted users to upload documents to be stored – this was very similar to Dropbox, but using the website only. With the rebranding, Google Drive now provides a computer folder that automatically synchronizes with Google Drive. Google Drive, at the moment only supports Windows, Macs, and Android — iOS support is in development. Google Drive users start off with 5GBs of free space. Users can upgrade their memory with a wide selection of decently priced plans up to a maximum of 16TBs. Only documents that users upload will be counted against the memory. Google Docs does not count against the users storage. Furthermore, the 5GBs free is only the memory for Google Drive. Users still have their 10GBs of free email storage. Music (10,000 songs) stored under Google Play also does not count towards the Google Drive memory. Image storing in Picasa is also separate. Combining all of Google’s services provide a lot more than 5GBs free for users.
Although Microsoft’s SkyDrive is not new, it has been greatly improved, making it simpler for users to access and store files. With the latest upgrade, Microsoft SkyDrive now syncs folders on a users computers instead of relying users to remember to upload files onto the website. Microsoft supports the operating systems Windows, Mac, iOS, and Windows Phone. At the moment, Android is not officially supported. Whilst other services do not have an upload limit on the application client, SkyDrive has a limit of 2GBs. SkyDrive users start off with 7GBs free. However, if you jumped on the SkyDrive bandwagon before the upgrade, it is possible for you to get 25GBs free. Microsoft provides 3 plans for users to upgrade their memory. Users can get a maximum of 125GBs of storage. Similar to Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive users are also to create Microsoft Office documents through the website. However, unlike Google Drive, these documents do take up space in memory. If a consumer is only starting a cloud service, SkyDrive may be the way to go as it offers the most free space initially.
Although this article is a review of the cloud services, I have not gone into detail about all the cloud services, as I have not used them all enough to give it a fair review. However, some other cloud services that should be considered are: Amazon Cloud Drive, Box, iCloud, SugarSync and many more.
Previously, I would have definitely chosen Dropbox as the best cloud drive. However, with the upgrade to Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive, I feel like the best solution is to use all three concurrently to maximize the amount of online storage available. Especially since all three services now automatically synchronizes, and all also have version history. Furthermore, experiment to see what combination of file types work better with each storage space. For example, it may be more appropriate to store large quantities of Microsoft documents in SkyDrive because it can be edited with the online version of Microsoft Office. If only a small amount of storage space is required, I still recommend Dropbox as the cloud storage solution as it supports the most platforms.
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