Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve done it again! After publishing our massively popular Top 10 Secure Dropbox Alternatives article with over 5,000 words, we’ve tackled this comparison monster and can finally show you our findings.
In this 7,000 word post, we’ve not only included comprehensive speed tests of the services but also created a companion video series for you to enjoy.
But we didn’t stop there. We’ve surveyed small business owners and bloggers on how they use cloud storage. Below you can find a collection of their tips and tricks to make you more productive.
Find The Right Cloud – Video Series
We will be discussing the cloud storage industry’s big guns. We tested each of these apps individually and noted down all their little shortcomings– to help you make the right decision. You don’t have to read everything (although we do recommend it for the best possible experience), you’re free to jump right into the section which interests you the most:
To start, let’s quickly go over the services we are going to discuss in detail later on:
Want to know what we recommend instead of the “big guns”?
Not always are Dropbox, Google Drive the right answer. The cloud storage market is big. VERY big. That’s why we’ve created this website, after all. We’ve testing dozens of cloud storage services over the years and our top two choices are Sync.com and pCloud.
Sync.com is a great alternative to the big players like Dropbox or Google Drive because this Canada based service puts security at the forefront of their business model.
Whereas Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive do not encrypt your files before they are sent to the cloud, Sync scrambles (encrypts) data before sending it off to their servers. You are in control of the keys for the encryption process which ensures nobody but the owner of the key can see the data.
Sync works essentially in the same way as Dropbox: a client can be installed on your computer which creates a synchronized folder. All files you put into that folder will be transferred back and forth across all your devices.
Here are a few screenshots to show you how Sync.com looks like:
This is how Sync’s web panel look like, this is an exact representation of the files on your computer. You can share any file or folder either from the web or your desktop.
Sync.com has a “vault” feature, which lets you put files from your desktop into the vault. Those file disappear from your hard drive but will remain in the cloud for sharing or restoration purposes (as a backup).
Usually, a bulk of cloud beginners rush to the “big guns” immediately they’re introduced to the cloud. As a matter of fact, newbies form a bulk of the user base on Dropbox, Google Drive and the likes. Think about it- would Google Drive have 240 million users if it was not attached to other Google services? And would Dropbox enjoy a user base of 300 million users if it wasn’t one of the first cloud services most users are introduced to?
I was also pretty much hitched to Dropbox back when I was a cloud fresher. Then things started becoming clearer and I had to jump ship after assessing other smaller brands more critically.
They may not have the budget muscle to compete with the big guns on the marketing front…but a couple of them sure have features that make you think twice.
When it comes to smaller brands that are making an impact, pCloud, according to us, deserves a mention. It started back in 2013, and has since gained more than 3 million users.
So, let’s get right on it….
One of the first things you’ll like about pCloud after longing into its web app is the easily navigable interface.
Files are systematically sorted on the main window, allowing you to download, copy, edit and share them as you please. But of course, that’s pretty much standard in Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive and iCloud, right? So, I kept looking around for the special features…and thankfully, I discovered that the service not only backups your folders, but also other online services.
You can link your account to Picasa, Instagram, and Dropbox (hmmm…yeah, I know) and it will automatically copy all your files and media every 3 days. A cloud backup that backups another cloud backup- pretty smooth, huh?
If you’re the type that likes additional mobility, you can download pCloud’s PC and mobile clients…but duh, that’s also standard with the big guns. Things however, start getting interesting when we come to the file syncing and sharing. With pCloud, you don’t have to create a shared folder like Google Drive.
You can either share upload link, share download link, or invite to folder. Although this makes collaboration more flexible, only one user can edit a fail at a specific time.
While collaboration is not pCloud’s forte, the service is seemingly optimized for file backup and sharing. As a new user, you’ll get 20 GB free storage space. Now, compare that to Dropbox’s mere 2GB and Google Drive’s 15GB, which initially seemed to be quite a lot compared to what its competitors offered.
But then again, Google Drive’s dominance diminishes when you consider the fact that your email quota eats up into your storage space.
Well, it may take you quite a while to completely exhaust 20GB of storage space. But if you do, here are your options on paid subscriptions
If recommend pCloud to a couple of friends or workmates, you’ll get an additional 1GB. Unfortunately, this only applies to 20 recommendations. But then again, 40GB of free storage isn’t bad, now is it? If you still manage to exhaust that, you have two options- premium or premium plus.
pCloud crypto costs and additional 3,99$ per month if you need client-side encryption.
Of course in addition to increase space, upgrades translate into additional features and privileges. I fell in love with the premium plus, which is cheaper by $2 compared to Google Drive and Dropbox’s 1TB plans- translating to $24 savings per year.
Curiously, Dropbox users paid $9.99 for 100 GB of storage space until 2013, when it was upgraded to 1 TB- the precise year when pCloud was launched. Was the market getting a little bit too hot for Dropbox?
Remember back in 2014 when Dropbox’s user account details were compromised? Well, I’ve met a couple of people who argue that Dropbox attracted the attention of hackers because it’s a large, widely recognized brand. Of course no one would waste his/her time to chasing smaller companies, unless they’re looking for a specific set of files. Coming to think of it, it probably makes sense to some level.
So, if you cannot attract the heat, you bring it right to your doorstep. And that’s exactly what pCloud did. They created a contest for hackers worldwide, with a cash prize of $100,000 up for grabs. Interestingly, no one among the 2680 participants managed to hack through pCloud’s server and user side encryptions, even after attempting for 6 months straight.
Google Drive came into existence after Google decided to re-brand the popular Google Docs service. Since then, Google Drive has found its own fans and haters in equal amounts. With amazing collaboration features, this cloud syncing and storage service is definitely a game changer in the market.
The godfather of cloud syncing services has been in the business for a very long time. Dropbox’s success is the reason so many cloud services got launched in the market, but the king still reigns in many respects. More than 400 million users worldwide are a testament to Dropbox’s success. Of course, there are flaws and some deal breakers which we’ll explore later in the article.
Apple’s iCloud is more of an extra perk available to Apple users rather than an individual service. Most iCloud’s features only work if you’re using an Apple device, and if you’re not, it’s really unnecessary. Nevertheless, we wanted to include iCloud into this comparison because Apple users are plentiful indeed.
SkyDrive was renamed and revamped into OneDrive by Microsoft due legal disputes with Sky Broadcasting, and since then, the company has been pushing to get more and more customers to use their cloud services. Though OneDrive still has a long way to go, its deep integration with Microsoft Office is definitely luring in more customers.
Amazon recently launched their cloud service called Amazon Cloud Drive, and it has definitely gained some attention because of the unlimited storage deals going around, although storage isn’t all that’s important in a cloud service. Technically, the service has been active since 2012, but really hasn’t gained momentum until recently.
In this section, we’ll be discussion general issues to take into consideration when considering a cloud-based storage solution. While you might be tempted to skip this section we think it’s crucial for a better understanding of cloud-based storage services. What they can’t and cannot do for you.
We’ll talk about backup (specifically with claims about unlimited cloud storage) and also why consumer solution like the ones presented in this article may not be the best bet for your (small) business.
Also, you should pay close attention if security is a major concern for you when using the cloud.
Stay with us.
Personal or Business Use?
There are many aspects that can affect your decision when choosing a cloud storage service. Which is why we have put together a list of all the essentials aspects to consider.
When it comes to personal files, there’s obviously information which may or may not be sensitive. However, home users don’t have to comply with government regulations or other restrictive company policies. The main consideration to keep in mind when considering cloud storage for personal use, is to be able to access files from any device and share them as quickly as possible.
When a cloud storage service is meant for business use, priorities change.
Not only does the need arise to ensure that data is securely encrypted (end-to-end encryption), but also the use of a service which abides by policies setup by governments and the company itself. At the same time, a business oriented cloud storage service should allow easy collaboration among team members.
While Dropbox has been touted as a cloud service for individuals, it is definitely trying to turn the tables around with Dropbox Teams and Dropbox for Business. With Dropbox for Business, the company pulled in several compliance certificates that it wasn’t following before, making it easier for organizations to opt for Dropbox.
For Dropbox Teams, users get special collaboration tools to build a team inside Dropbox. They also get a shared folder which the entire team can share and create sub-folders.
Generally, businesses need a more granular ability to control access to folders (read-only, read-write, ability to share, see who’s currently accessing the folder) and extensive audits on access histories.
When it comes to Google Apps for Work, they do provide ‘unlimited storage’ for $10/month, but this storage capacity is limited to 1TB if an organization has less than 5 employees.
Most of the App for Work tools are similar to Google’s personal version, although with the Work version, security features are unimpressive–oddly enough.
Good part – Google Drive for Work is compliant with FERPA, FISMA, HIPAA, and adheres to Safe Harbor Principles.
Bad Part – It’s Google. It tracks everything you do and Google accounts are susceptible to attacks.
Now comes the underdog, OneDrive. Though Microsoft has announced its integration with the company’s popular service, Sharepoint 2013, we have yet to see an effect on businesses.
Sharepoint was preferred by businesses around the world because it had dedicated servers and people always knew where their data was located. But now that Sharepoint is integrating with OneDrive and moving towards the cloud, nobody knows the exact location of their data in the cloud.
We tried syncing files across five services, to see which one was the fastest and which ones lagged behind. We used an iPhone, an Android and a Windows 10 machine and a Macbook Air.
That way, we could test how each cloud service performed on various platforms and systems and also how file syncing works across platforms.
Dropbox was the clear winner here. File syncing was almost instantaneous and processed files smoothly . Google Drive and iCloud were a close second. OneDrive took its own time and though the file on our iPhone got synced quickly, it refused to show up on the Android phone. The app had to be closed and opened again.
Selective sync means there’s an option to select which folders need to be locally available on a device. This helps in saving disk space, since all files uploaded in the cloud are synced and copied on a local machine, and there is no reason to give up space on the disk for files which are not needed.
But you have to be aware of the risks involved: if there’s only one copy of the folder in the cloud, well, you rely on that cloud to always serve you that folder. Make sure to keep a local backup copy somewhere.
Selective sync has been available in both Dropbox and Google Drive for quite some time, but it was just recently introduced to OneDrive a few months ago.
Selective sync is still missing in iCloud and Amazon Cloud Drive, though Amazon is one large selective sync if you will, because it works just like a hard drive in the cloud, no local copies or syncing is possible.
Storage is obviously very important when it comes to cloud services. While some services offer more free storage than others, most of the time, it will be a give and take process between features and storage amount:
Google Drive provides the maximum amount free storage at 15GB. For users of Google Docs and Gmail (emails count towards that quota)
Dropbox provides a mere 2GB, but users can earn an extra 500MB for every friend they invite to use Dropbox and increase storage to up to 16GB
iCloud provides 5GB storage which includes the backup of an iPhone as well as iCloud Drive
Amazon Cloud Drive provides no free storage, but there is free three month trial
Collaboration is an important feature when working with a team. Google Drive definitely has one of the best collaborative features with Google Docs. Users can comment, chat and work on a file simultaneously.There’s also a small yet handy ‘notification panel’ on the right side of Google Drive, which lets a user know about all the latest files that have been modified or uploaded.
Dropbox still lacks collaborative features. It has introduced Dropbox Teams and Badges to somewhat make up the deficit, but you’ll need a Dropbox for Business subscription to use them. Dropbox Personal has absolutely no collaborative features (a part from sharing folders and work inside those folders).
In fact, if two people are working on the same file, the version of whoever saves first will overwrite all the other currently open versions of that file.
OneDrive has recently announced new collaborative features for Microsoft Word 2016. These features were already available for Office 365 users. They’re pretty similar to Google Drive’s collaborative features. The plus here is that Onedrive provides real time notifications about whoever is editing a document.
Also, versioning control helps to keep files from being overwritten and lets you roll back to a previous version of any file.
iCloud and Amazon Cloud Drive, as one may have guessed, have zero collaborative features.
Obviously, this news grabbed a lot of attention and many people were attracted by it, but they may have missed some important facts mentioned in the fine print:
Section 3.2 Usage restrictions and limits
The Service is offered in the United States. We may restrict access from other locations. There may be limits on the types of content you can store and share using the Service, such as file types we don’t support, and on the number or type of devices you can use to access the Service. [emphasis added]
Section 1.2: No commercial use
You may use the Service only to store, retrieve, manage, and access Your Files for personal, non-commercial purposes using the features and functionality we make available.
This means the company has the right to terminate their much publicized ‘limited storage’ if they want to, but you also cannot access or use it for business or commercial purposes. So, all a person can do is save personal files and boring holiday photos on this much coveted limited storage? Boring.
Basically, people are spending $5 for as long as Amazon is willing to continue the unlimited storage. They have the right to cancel your subscription or reduce it at essentially any time.
We have seen what happened to Bitcasa subscribers who uploaded terabytes of data to that service, just to find it discontinued later in the process. Some people weren’t even able to recover their uploaded files. While Amazon is a much bigger and more reliable company, they can add or remove restrictions at will.
A similar thing happened with OneDrive’s unlimited storage claim. In October last year, Microsoft announced that they would be rolling out unlimited storage on OneDrive for all of their Office 365 users. This was probably done to lure in more Office 365 customers. However, this month, the company again issued a statement saying the storage limit was back to the old 1TB and customers who were using more have to clear it out quickly.
Right now, unlimited storage does look like a myth. Companies will do anything to get more customers, even if it involves giving the illusion of unlimited storage.
Risks Related to Encryption and NSA
Here is a common fact to all the cloud storage services we are comparing today: none of them provide end-to-end encryption.
This means that though data is encrypted when it’s being transferred, it is completely unencrypted and unattended when it’s sitting idle in the cloud. And even if the data is encrypted, technically, that cloud service has the key to unlock the encrypted information. This poses three problems.
Interested in cloud storage security?
Watch our interview with security professional Jesús Díaz, Researcher at the Spanish Insitute of Cybersecurity (INCIBE)
Is Dropbox Insecure? Interview with Jesús Díaz, Researcher at the Spanish Insitute of Cybersecurity (INCIBE)
Employees of the cloud service could see your data (unlikely, but possible). Hackers can get to files easier, or intercept connections with a man-in-the-middle attack
Also, all the cloud services listed here have an open door policy with the NSA, which means the government can go through data whenever they need to.
What people need to understand is that this is the cloud; it’s supposed to make file access easy, but it’s still far from being 100% secure. We all learned that from the ‘iCloud hack.’
Now, generally, it’s tough to get accurate results for speed and performance tests when it comes to cloud services. Also, what use is a speed test if our location is different from yours, if our ISP has a very slow uplink connection and yours is super fast? That’s one issue. So, when we say it took a 1GB test file 30 minutes to upload, a similar file very well could take an hour on your side of the world.
Another issue is compression and cache performance. Generally, all cloud services either compress or cache files before uploading them to their servers. That’s why it is wise to test with a batch of smaller files to see how many files are processed per second. That’s particularly important if you plan to upload a lot of smaller text documents or spreadsheets. While personal users probably won’t generate as many files, businesses probably have dozens if not hundreds of people collaborating together.
We decided to measure the actual throughput in megabytes per second because that’s what many people can relate to. They know how many files they have on their systems and can get an idea how long it might take for them to sync 100GB of files after reading our tests. We used Little Snitch as our network monitor to scan all outgoing connections and timed the up and download from start to finish.
We then calculated the average MB/s second throughput (1GB divided by the time in minutes) and recorded peak upload speeds with Little Snitch. Most accurate results may have been obtained with Wireshark, but as we’re looking at consumer-grade solutions, it would have been an overkill.
Our test files are a combination of the usual syncing suspects:
MS Office and other text documents
Audio files (MP3 and WAV)
RAW photo files
MP4 video files
Files sizes range from a couple of KB to a hundred MB, for the video files.
We decided to upload 1GB, to be able to quickly compare the results; but certainly long term tests are adequate and we’ll update this article accordingly. We’ve uploaded, deleted and re-uploaded the files three times and averaged the results which you can find below.
Also, we’ve uploaded the same files to a more expensive business and enterprise cloud syncing solution we use here, called Autotask Workplace (formerly known as Soonr). We thought it would be interesting to see how an end-to-end encrypted service performs against consumer solutions. If you’d like to know more about enterprise file sharing and sync, feel free to get in touch with us.
After the huge success of Google Docs, it was re-branded as Google Drive to give multiple Google service one home. It may be a little new to the game compared to the other veterans, but with its powerful and amazing features, Google Drive is gaining more customers than ever.
Google Drive Speed Comparison
Looking at a provider’s speed results can only be a snapshot of actual performance – so your mileage may vary depending on your internet connection and files that you upload. Here are our results for Google Drive:
Plans and Pricing
Google Drive gives 15GB of free storage and this includes Gmail data, but excludes documents and spreadsheets created in Google Docs. The highest storage it can offer is 30TB for $299.99 per month; this is actually the highest storage capacity offered among all the cloud services included in our list today. Well, apart from Amazon Cloud Drive, which claims to give ‘unlimited storage.’
The one thing that we absolutely loved about Google Drive’s web app is that right click works just like it works on a desktop. It’s also extremely easy to directly upload folders or share them.
Nonetheless, we really think Google could do better with the web app’s interface. Compared to the others, this GUI just looks dull and boring with a gray background and the graphics look sad, too.
Selective sync is available in Google Drive which is a great plus, but it comes with a big caveat: you cannot selectively sync sub-folders. Why Google won’t implement this crucial feature is really beyond us and certainly a major deal breaker for anybody who wants a bit more control.
It also allows version control for both Google docs files as well as non-Google files. All the versions of Google files are kept in the system. But for non-Google files, anything over 100 revisions is deleted after 30 days.
This can be increased to 200 revisions by choosing the ‘Keep forever’ option under ‘Manage versions’ tab.
Google Drive was the quickest to upload. With an upload speed of 6.2 MB/s (that’s BYTE), it was able to upload a 1GB file in around 23 minutes. But Dropbox was pretty close as it took around 25 minutes to upload the same set of files.
Downloading on Google Drive was surprisingly slower. In fact, it came in at 4th place, below Dropbox, OneDrive and iCloud. With a download speed of 52Mbit/s, the 1GB file took 6 minutes to download.
Sharing and Collaboration
Collaboration and sharing is pretty easy with Google Drive, all thanks to the amazing Google Docs. In fact, Google docs has the best real-time collaboration feature available in the market right now.
You can view and edit files with team members in real-time and discuss them over chat. When collaborating on a Google doc, users are able to see the Google + profile pictures of all the users who are viewing or editing the document alongside them. For Google Chrome OS users, offline access to all Drive files is provided.
By default, sign-in is not required to view Google docs if you have the file’s link, but Google lets you choose the privacy of the file as well. There are three modes available –
Public on the Web – This means anybody can find and access a file without any sign-in
Anyone with a link – file is not searchable on Google, but anyone with a link can access it without signing into their Google account
Shared with specific people – Here, you have to mention email addresses and only those people can access the file. Sign-in is, of course, mandatory here.
File sharing is pretty similar to Dropbox. You can either directly create a shared folder by inviting users and putting their email address or share the file’s link with other people.
Mobile Access and Photo Storage
We tested the Google Drive app on both Android and iOS, and they look more or less the same. Surprisingly, Google Drive still doesn’t have an officially supported Windows Phone app. There seems to be a client, but it has very negative reviews on the Windows app store.
The Android app allows access to your entire internal storage (which is not possible on an iPhone). But there is a hiccup we noticed – files can only be viewed and not edit on the Google Drive app, so we had to install Google docs in order to edit files.
Photo storage is available through Google Photos, which is a reincarnation of Google’s Picasa. Once pictures are uploaded onto Google, it scans through the images and can identify different objects in photos. So a search for “pizza” will prompt Google to show all of your photos that have a pizza in it. Google Photos also has the option of editing photos online, which none of the other services being discussed here have.
Dropbox is a veteran among all of these cloud storage services. While all the other companies listed here just provide cloud services as an addition to the other services they offer, for Dropbox, the cloud is their bread and butter.
Dropbox Speed Comparison
Looking at a provider’s speed results can only be a snapshot of actual performance – so your mileage may vary depending on your internet connection and files that you upload. Here are our results for Dropbox:
Plans and Pricing
Like all the other services, Dropbox is a Freemium service. They provide 2GB of free storage and 500MB extra for every friend referred to Dropbox. For more plans, check out the price chart here.
Pro version with more sharing options (password protected links, expiration dates)
Dropbox has file syncing but no backup service, which means if a file is deleted from a Dropbox folder on any device, the file is deleted everywhere.
Though it can definitely retain older versions of files. It keeps old files after 30 days of being modified or deleted, and you can recover files older than that too, but you will need a pro account to use that feature.
We have to note, file syncing in Dropbox was the fastest. While the 1GB file upload took around 25 minutes, it was downloaded in roughly 3.4 minutes.
What we didn’t like about the app was that it doesn’t allow users to directly upload folders through the web app or mobile app. The only way to directly upload folders is to copy paste them in the local Dropbox folder on a computer and hit sync.
Also, file syncing is limited to the Dropbox folder that’s determined at the beginning of an install. You can’t sync files outside of your Dropbox folder, unless you’re willing to fiddle around with symlinks.
Sharing and Collaboration
Sharing is pretty easy with Dropbox. In fact, that’s what we love about it and we all know that Google Drive copied these features.
There are two ways to share a file or a folder in Dropbox:
Share the file link and set the visibility to ‘can be seen by anybody with a link’
Directly invite users by entering their email address
This way, the file or folder being shared will become common among all the people invited and they’ll able to keep tabs on any changes that may occur. Also, inviting someone means a notification is sent to you when they access the folder.
Working with Dropbox becomes a little difficult when looking to collaborate. There is no real-time collaboration. Also, if two users start editing the same file, then instead of the merging the two files together, the first user’s edited file will be saved as the second version of the file, while the other user’s file will be saved as a ‘conflicted copy’.
So finding out which version is the right one to work on, can be painful (especially with larger teams).
The one complaint we had with Dropbox in the past was that it didn’t allow document editing right from the app, unlike OneDrive and Google Drive. But all that changed when Dropbox announced its surprising collaboration with Microsoft Office.
The new integration with Microsoft Office Online is amazing, since it lets you edit Dropbox files directly in Microsoft Office Online – both on the web app and on the mobile app (for the mobile app, you need both Dropbox and Office 365 apps installed). we’re definitely loving this new feature; it’s like having the best of both worlds.
Mobile Access and Photo Storage
The entire interface is clean, simple and clear. It works on almost all kinds of devices and is not limited to just one or two platforms (we’re looking at you, iCloud). There are applications for:
Right when you log into Dropbox from a phone, the option to sync-up Camera Roll is provided. Apart from that, there are no extra features when it comes to photo storage.
We did notice that downloading pictures directly from Dropbox to a phone’s local storage is a little difficult. There is an option to ‘Make available offline,’ but that doesn’t put pictures in the Album folder. You can only access them through the Dropbox app. There is a separate option called ‘Export’ which lets you transfer photos to your album.
iCloud is Apple’s bet in the cloud storage market and it looks like Apple doesn’t really care much about the rest of the world. While other services are trying create apps for every platform possible, iCloud is very happy to stay in its own native ground. Maybe rightfully so, because they manufacture their own devices, so they don’t have rely on other companies’ systems. Pretty sneaky, Apple.
iCloud can be accessed with OS X Yosemite or above on a Mac and iOS 8 and above on iPhones. Apart from that, it also has an new app for Windows 10.
iCloud Speed Comparison
Looking at a provider’s speed results can only be a snapshot of actual performance – so your mileage may vary depending on your internet connection and files that you upload. Here are our results for iCloud:
Plans and Pricing
iCloud starts users off with 5GB of space, but unlike Google Drive, this is allocated across both iCloud Drive and iCloud, which stores photos and backup of an iPad/iPhone.
You cannot choose what goes in which folder because iCloud always knows better than you.
Apart from that, there’s an additional 1GB of space available for Numbers, Pages and Keynotes app. The price for iCloud storage is almost similar to Dropbox, but there are more increments available with iCloud. The service offers:
50GB storage for $0.99 per month
200GB storage for $2.99 per month
1TB storage for $9.99 per month
While testing iCloud Drive on iOS – we realized it’s rather complicated and confusing (very unlike Apple). It doesn’t really work like the other cloud storage apps, basically, it doesn’t provide the same freedom the other apps do. Since iCloud is deeply embedded in iOS, it didn’t have a separate app, so documents are saved on an app-by-app basis.
That means any documents in iCloud Drive that can be opened by the Numbers app can only be found in the Numbers app. For that, you need to make sure I have given permission to Numbers to access my iCloud drive.
Fortunately, the Mac version is pretty straightforward. There is a single iCloud folder where you can drag and drop all files and access them from there. File syncing from Mac is definitely quick and it almost gave Dropbox a run for its money.
When we tested upload and download times on iCloud, we found that it took 30 minutes to upload our test files and 4.48 minutes to download.
But iCloud is definitely a great option to sync:
If you have an iPad, an iPhone or a Mac (or maybe all three devices), iCloud would be the best option because of how amazingly it syncs data from all Apple devices.
Sharing and Collaboration
Sharing via apps is great within Apple’s own environment, but as soon as anyone moves out of Apple’s bubble, it becomes an utterly disappointing experience. It becomes painful every time you have move an iCloud document to a third-party app. Also, there is no context menu option available for iCloud.
Same goes for collaboration. Apple is so focused on itself that it doesn’t even care to produce any collaborative features. It did introduce iWork for iCloud last year, but it’s still far away from competing with Dropbox and Google Drive.
Mobile Access and Photo Storage
Obviously, iCloud doesn’t have an Android app and the iOS app is embedded in the device. Access to iCloud is through an Apple ID and you can also individually specify which apps can have access to iCloud data.
The Camera roll can be directly synced to iCloud’s Photos folder, but think hard about it before doing so, since we all know what happened the last time iCloud got hacked.
All in all, iCloud has a lot of potential, but for it to succeed, Apple really needs to take this service seriously. Make it cross-platform and add needed features like sharing and collaboration.
Microsoft’s in-house cloud storage service, OneDrive, was launched as a revamp of SkyDrive. This ‘new service’ was announced as the ‘one place for everything’ by the company and though it is definitely cross-platform, the service is still failing to capture the ‘non-Windows’ niche.
OneDrive Speed Comparison
Looking at a provider’s speed results can only be a snapshot of actual performance – so your mileage may vary depending on your internet connection and files that you upload. Here are our results for OneDrive:
Plans and Pricing
OneDrive used to give 15GB of free storage to its users, but it was recently decreased to 5GB. Also, until last month, it also gave ‘unlimited storage’ to Office 365 subscribers, but that too was not-so-shockingly taken back by the company and now, it’s back to the 1TB average.
From 2016 onwards, the service will be discontinuing its 100GB and 200GB paid storage plans and replacing them with a 50GB plan which will cost $1.99 per month.
File syncing is definitely slow, but it does provide selective sync and that is a relief. With a speed of 52 Mbit/s, OneDrive took about 4.42 minutes to download a 1GB file and 28 minutes to upload the same files with an upload speed of 6.12 Mbit/s.
While the download was fast, uploads were definitely slower, but it really depends on your internet connection and location. Are you using a fast cable connection, a VPN service, or maybe mobile? So results in your particular case may vary a lot. Also, while testing out the online web app and Android app, we uploaded our test folder through the web app and checked how long it took for the Android app to reflect it. But even after 10 minutes, the folder refused to display on the app.
So results in your particular case may vary a lot. Also, while testing out the online web app and Android app, we uploaded our test folder through the web app and checked how long it took for the Android app to reflect it. But even after 10 minutes, the folder refused to display on the app.
At the end, the app had to be completely closed. We logged out and logged in again, and then the folder appeared on Android.
Something else worth mentioning here is that OneDrive has a file limit of 20,000 files. It doesn’t matter what size those files are, the limit cannot be exceeded beyond the 20,000 mark. Its a bug and Microsoft knows that, but they haven’t done anything yet to resolve it. Though, the limit has been taken out of OneDrive for Business edition.
Sharing and Collaboration
Sharing of files is pretty straight forward, a lot like the other cloud services. When you tap on a file:
There’s an option to ‘Share’
Invite someone through their email address
Share the file through a link
Give read-only, or read-write access
It is possible to directly attach OneDrive files to emails, but only when using the Outlook Web App.
Moving on, we love the fact that OneDrive is integrated with Microsoft Office, which makes collaboration easy. But real-time collaboration is only available for Office 365 subscribers right now, but if Microsoft adds it as a free feature, it would definitely attract more customers.
Microsoft Office Online is just like its desktop version and definitely better than Google Docs. And to be honest, if someone’s worked on Microsoft Office all their life, then it’s really difficult to work on Google Docs (force of habit and preference).
Mobile Access and Photo Storage
The OneDrive mobile apps on both Android and iPhone are clear and crisp. However, one does not simply edit documents in the OneDrive mobile app, one must have Microsoft Office or a similar editor.
Mobile sharing is easy too, you can either directly copy a shareable link or directly send the link to apps like WhatsApp and Twitter. The OneDrive mobile app also has an ‘Attach to Mail’ option, but instead of attaching the actual file, it just puts the file link in an e-mail. A practice which saves space in the recipient’s mailbox.
OneDrive does not offer anything exciting for photo storage apart from the extra space. There is an option to view all photos in a slideshow. You can view the meta-data about a photo including camera information (a feature not which is not available on Dropbox). But, it’s still not on the same level as Google Photos, since OneDrive does not have photo editing features.
OneDrive does have a promising future, but before moving forward, it needs to work on its current functions including free real-time collaboration and allowing the attachment of OneDrive files directly through Outlook’s web app.
Amazon Cloud Drive
Amazon Cloud Drive is new to the scene, but it has plenty of iron in its spleen. It’s definitely trying to come on top of the hierarchy, through offering aggressive photo-oriented features and cheap cloud storage space.
Amazon Cloud Drive Speed Comparison
Looking at a provider’s speed results can only be a snapshot of actual performance – so your mileage may vary depending on your internet connection and files that you upload. Here are our results for Amazon Cloud Drive:
Basically, this file sharing cloud service is focused more on photos and backup. If this were just a photo backup app, it would have actually been good, but mixing everything up just makes it messier.
But then, it’s not a very good backup app either, because there are no scheduling features and Amazon’s ability to start off where a backup was left is flimsy at best.
Plans and Pricing
Amazon does not provide free storage. There is a three-month trial period, but that’s it. You can get 5GB data for $11.99/ year and unlimited storage for $59.99/year. Amazon did give out unlimited storage for $5 this Black Friday, but we don’t know how long that scheme will hold.
An Amazon Prime member will get unlimited storage for photos, which is definitely a pretty good deal.
We were ready to test Amazon Cloud Drive’s file syncing capabilities when… we realized there is no syncing feature in this service.
Instead, you have to manually download a file from the cloud, make whatever changes you want and then upload it again. There is no local copy saved.
Moving files around on Amazon Cloud Drive was the slowest. We did a speed test with 6.2Mbit/s upload speed and 52 Mbit/s download speed, it took around 6.5 minutes for download and 38 minutes to upload a 1GB folder.
The desktop client is just an upload manager for the Amazon Cloud. It’s easy to setup and start uploading files via drag-and-drop. You can watch how your files are being uploaded in the History tab.
Sharing and Collaboration
No one can share more than 25 files in one go. That means if a person wants to use Amazon to share a folder with around 30 files with someone, they’re gonna have to use a zip folder, or move the files into a shared folder altogether (this wasn’t possible a couple of weeks ago because you couldn’t share folders only files with Amazon Cloud Drive).
Also, Amazon Cloud Drive has absolutely no collaboration features. You can create albums to organize photos and videos, but that’s about it.
Mobile Access and Photo Storage
The service has mobile apps for Android and iOS, and desktop apps for Mac and Windows. The mobile apps do have automatic image upload tools (just like the other services), but the desktop apps are disappointing with limited features.
Amazon Cloud Drive was first launched as a photo storage app which later grew on to accommodate all kinds of files. The app definitely has a lot of features for photos:
Preview all stored images images
See a slide show
Look up metadata
Check aperture and shutter speed settings
With the Amazon Instant Video app, users can connect to Smart TVs and see their photos on big screens, but it doesn’t display picture meta-data like Flickr does and there are no editing features available in the app.
Amazon Cloud Drive can definitely be used as a place to store images by Amazon Prime members, since that will cost them nothing extra, but paying for this cloud storage service doesn’t make sense right now since all you get is storage and no other extra features. We would definitely want to hold on and see what the company has to offer… in the future.
Cloud storage security is important and we’ve discussed this at length in this article. What we’re looking at when considering Dropbox alternatives are services that encrypt your files before they leave your computer, with end-to-end encryption.
Fortunately, there are plenty services available that are taking security seriously. Here are some options for your to consider:
Another secure alternative is Tresorit, which is based in Hungary and Switzerland and claims to keep data secure and encrypted. It provides 1TB of encrypted storage for 16€/user/month, but is certainly more geared towards business users.
Still worried about data security? then try SpiderOak, which has a strict ‘zero knowledge policy.’ That means no one at the company has any knowledge about the contents of your data because you are in control of the encryption keys. But with such great privacy features, the cost is 30GB of storage space for $7/month.
There is also the Canada-based file storage and syncing service, Sync.com, which has a ‘zero-knowledge encryption’ policy. With its user level access controls and 5GB of storage for free, this is a great service to try.
After doing a complete Google Drive vs Dropbox vs iCloud vs OneDrive vs Amazon Cloud Drive analysis, what’s left to say?
Perhaps this, there is no one ‘perfect cloud app’. It’s more like a give and take between features each service has to offer.
So you need to determine what you’re looking for and which app comes closest to your requirements. Feel free to do a thorough inventory of your needs and then use ourfeature chart to determine which solution works best.
When it comes to speed, certainly Dropbox and Google Drive are the top performers in the race. If you’re an Office 365 subscriber, well, it’s almost a no-brainer to use OneDrive and maybe supplement it with Google Drive or Dropbox for larger file syncs (because they work more reliably on those platforms).
Do you need top-notch security? Sorry to disappoint. None of the services will satisfy such needs. They all lack end-to-end encryption, and are all hosted in the USA. If you have special requirements for auditing and compliance purposes, consider looking at business cloud storage solutions instead.
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