Cloud storage has changed the way we use computers and data.
Thanks to the cloud you can breathe easier. Your files are safe, even if something terrible happens to your computer, phone or tablet.
You can have near-instant access to any of your files from almost everywhere.
There’s a chance you already have cloud storage. Limited free services are part of the deal when you buy an Apple computer or Microsoft Office 365. You also get free cloud storage if you use Gmail or Google Docs.
Free storage is good, yet it’s worth paying extra. 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. You may also be able to share them with friends or colleagues.
Most, but not all, cloud storage services double as syncing services.
OneDrive is the default cloud services for Microsoft Windows 10. 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, Microsoft’s 50GB Basic plan costs US$24 a year.
Microsoft offers 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. While there are apps for iOS and MacOS, the integration isn’t always smooth.
Apple customers often use iCloud in a different way to how 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 services.
There is a 5GB free tier. The 20GB for US$12-a-year plan gives you 50GB. The price of the 200GB plan is US$36 a year while a terabyte of cloud storage costs US$120.
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.
iCloud can be confusing at times. Apple designed it to work with Apple apps. That is still where it shines the most. Even so, it is easy to install on Windows computers and there is a great web interface.
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. 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.
Dropbox is the independent alternative personal cloud service. You get less storage for free, but it’s independence means flexibility. It is also a great way to share files with others.
|Personal cloud storage services compared|
|Service||What you get for free||Storage||Price|
|Office 365 Home||1TB is included||–||$80|
|Storage shared between||1TB||$100|
|Drive, Gmail, Google+ and Google Photos||10TB||$1200|
|All prices in US dollars, annualised and .99 prices rounded up|