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How to choose the right cloud storage plan

Cloud storage means you can have fast access to all your important data no matter where you, no matter which device you are using at the time.

It is good for storing and sharing files. That’s important if you now find yourself working at home and need to collaborate with remote colleagues.

You can use cloud storage for Word or other written documents, PDFs, spreadsheets and photos or anything else that is a digital file.

Cloud storage means you can access all your work files, even when you’re not at the office.

Your files are safe. Even if something terrible happens to your computer, phone or tablet, they will still be there in the cloud.

If you don’t already use a cloud storage service, you should think about it. You’ll get an added layer of protection for your important files.

You may already have cloud storage

There’s a chance you already have cloud storage. Limited free services are part of the deal when you buy an Apple computer or pay for a Microsoft Office 365 subscription. Google’s Gmail and Docs services come with a healthy helping of free cloud storage.

Free storage is good. It may be enough for your needs. Yet it’s often worth paying for more.

That way you can get the cloud storage plan that best suits your needs. When you pay, you get more storage. You may also get more features and tools or extra security.

In some cases paying means you can not only store more data, but also store larger files. There may also be better ways to share them with friends or colleagues.

Microsoft OneDrive

OneDrive is Microsoft’s default cloud storage and synching service for Windows 10 and Office. It integrates well with the operating system. It also works well with Office.

If you’re a Microsoft 365 customer you get 1TB of OneDrive storage with your account.

If not, there is a free 5GB basic version of OneDrive. That’s barely enough to get you started, but it will give you a taste or what OneDrive can do.

Microsoft sells a 100GB of OneDrive cloud storage for NZ$3 a month.

OneDrive comes with a comprehensive set of cloud tools and apps. This includes web versions of Office apps like Word and Excel. In practice OneDrive seems to be slower at syncing than the other options listed here.

If you use Windows and Office, OneDrive has to be the first service you should consider.

While there are apps for iOS and MacOS, the integration isn’t always smooth.

Apple iCloud

Apple customers often use iCloud in a different way to the way Microsoft owners use OneDrive. iCloud is more about syncing between devices than simple storage. Although it does that too.

If you own Apple hardware and use Microsoft software you may end up using both iCloud and OneDrive.

Every Apple customer gets 5GB of iCloud for free. It’s not enough for serious use, but does show you what to expect if you pay.

A 50GB plan costs NZ$1.69 a month. It should be enough for a light user. There’s a 200GB plan for NZ$5 a month. This is ideal if you have a lot of files or if you plan to share your iCloud account with family members. Families who get through a lot of data can buy the 2TB plan for $17 a month.

iCloud is a must for Apple users. You only get one 5GB allocation even if you have many devices. If you have a Mac, iPhone and iPad you may find it isn’t enough. Windows users can sign for any iCloud plan.

Apple designed iCloud to work with Apple apps. That is still where it shines the most. You may not even notice you are using it, the experience is that seamless.

iCloud is easy to install on Windows computers and there is a great web interface.

Google Drive

There’s more to Google Drive than cloud storage and sync. You could say the same about OneDrive and iCloud. Those services complement Microsoft software and Apple hardware offerings.

Drive goes further. It is a key part of Google’s collaborative online office suite along with Google Docs and Google Sheets. The emphasis is less on backing up your phone or PC docs than replacing them in the cloud.

Google Drive’s 15GB is generous compared to the other cloud storage services. Yet it is not as generous as it first looks. The allowance includes mail messages and images stored with Google Photos.

Some find Google Drive harder to navigate than OneDrive. Of the three big services, it is the least geared towards conventional back up. In practice backup works well enough.

Google Drive is a must if you own an Android phone or a Chromebook. You can’t avoid if you work with Gmail or Google Docs.

Dropbox

Dropbox is the independent alternative personal cloud service. You get less free storage but it’s independence means flexibility. You’re not tied to anything. In practice it is the best way to share files with others when you don’t know what technology they use.

In some respects Dropbox is simpler than the services mentioned above. That’s a good thing, it does one job and does it well. The main drawback is that paid Dropbox accounts are expensive. Prices start at US$15 a month.

You can connect to Dropbox via the web, but there’s some pressure to download and use an app to handle uploads and download. In practice I found the app is not as reliable as the web service, it some cases data transfers to the cloud could take more than a day when uploaded using the app.

Box

Box is expensive compared to the other services here. It’s easy to use and the free service is generous. For these reasons along you should look at it.

Mega

New Zealand-based Mega has a generous 15GB free allowance. It’s main claim to fame is that you get end-to-end encryption, which is an added layer of security and privacy. If you want to store private documents online, this is the service for you.

In practice I found Mega requires a little more work than the services from Google, Apple and Microsoft that integrate with apps. Yet it is on a par with Box and Dropbox.

Personal cloud storage services compared
ServiceWhat you get for freeStoragePrice
Apple iCloud5GB50GBNZ$20
200GBNZ$60
2TBNZ$200
Microsoft OneDrive5GB100GBNZ$36
Office 365 Home 1TB is includedNZ$80
Google Drive15GB 100GBUS$20
Storage shared between 2TBUS$120
Drive, Gmail, Google+ and Google Photos10TBUS$1200
20TBUS$2400
30TBUS$3600
Dropbox2GB3TBUS$200
Box10GB100GBUS$60
UnlimitedUS$180
Mega50GB400GBNZ$100
2TBNZ$200
8TBNZ$400
All prices in US dollars unless it says otherwise, annualised and prices rounded to nearest sensible number

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