14 May 2013

Best cloud storage: Dropbox vs SkyDrive vs Google Drive vs iCloud

Best cloud storage: Dropbox vs SkyDrive vs Google Drive vs iCloud
Where's The best Place To Keep Your Data ?

Now that many of us have tablets, mobiles and multiple computers to think about, syncing and cloud storage services have become increasingly important.
The big three players - Apple, Google and Microsoft - all have their own tools for keeping your files in sync, while Dropbox has long been a popular solution that works just about everywhere.
Here, we take a look at what each solution offers in terms of features and capabilities.
Many other similar tools are available too - if you have a recommendation, let us know in the comments.

Dropbox vs SkyDrive vs Google Drive vs iCloud: Key info

  • Free space: 2GB
  • Premium space: $99/year for 100GB
  • File size limit: Unlimited
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, BlackBerry
  • Best for: Seamless syncing
Google Drive
  • Free space: 5GB
  • Premium space: $59.88/year for 100GB
  • File size limit: 10GB
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
  • Best for: Web apps
Apple iCloud
  • Free space: 5GB
  • Premium space: $100/year for 50GB
  • File size limit: 25MB free/250MB paid
  • Platforms: Mac, iOS, Windows
  • Best for: Heavy iTunes/Mac users
Microsoft SkyDrive
  • Free space: 7GB
  • Premium space: $50/year for 100GB
  • File size limit: 2GB
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone
  • Best for: Windows/Office integrationFree space
* Note premium space figures are only one example of several price plans on each service.

Dropbox vs SkyDrive vs Google Drive vs iCloud: Storage space

Not only do these services keep data in sync across computers and mobile devices, they provide a cloud-based backup too.
SkyDrive offers 7GB of space for free, Google Drive and iCloud provide 5GB, while free accounts on Dropbox are awarded 2GB of space (this can be quickly increased through friend referrals, beta testing and a few other tricks).
There are premium options if you want to pay for more space. An extra 100GB for a year will cost you US$50 on SkyDrive, US$59.88 on Google Drive, and US$99 on Dropbox.
Dropbox v SkyDrive v Google Drive v iCloud
Google Drive works best on the web, though desktop/mobile client apps are available
iCloud's paid plans max out at an additional 50GB which will set you back $100 for the year.

Dropbox vs SkyDrive vs Google Drive vs iCloud: Syncing

Dropbox, SkyDrive and Google Drive provide desktop clients for Windows and Mac (with Dropbox offering an official Linux tool too).
Each app designates a hard-drive folder, and anything saved here is automatically synced to the cloud and your other devices.
There's little to choose between them, though Dropbox feels the more polished solution - it just works, which may be why Steve Jobs showed an interest in buying the company.
Dropbox v SkyDrive v Google Drive v iCloud
Dropbox shines in terms of its web interface and its ease of use
iCloud is tightly integrated into the Mac OS and a growing number of iOS apps, and its focus is more towards being an invisible syncing and backup solution, rather than a catch-all digital locker.
On the mobile side, SkyDrive is currently the only one of these services available officially on Windows Phone.
SkyDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox are all represented on iOS and Android. iCloud is baked into iOS, and hasn't yet been made available for other platforms, though a basic Windows tool has been released that covers some syncing functionlity.

Dropbox vs SkyDrive vs Google Drive vs iCloud: Online apps and access

A key part of Google Drive is its online apps suite (it grew out of Google Docs, after all).
Drive includes web-based tools for creating documents, presentations and spreadsheets, and these files don't count towards your storage quota.
For its part, SkyDrive includes stripped-down versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint that run in the browser. These are basic tools, but they will be adequate for many casual users.
While Dropbox doesn't offer browser-based apps, it does have a flexible web interface listing your folders and files. Many file types - covering PDFs, documents, video, photos and music - can be viewed in the browser, even if there are no editing features.
iCloud includes basic notes, contacts and calendar tools, but no web-based office suite, and no online file explorer to take a look at your content.
Dropbox v SkyDrive v Google Drive v iCloud
iCloud works seamlessly with Mac and iOS devices, though the web experience is pretty basic
It's also worth mentioning sharing and collaboration too.
Dropbox has perfected the art of sharing files and folders on the web - it's as easy as passing along a URL, whether or not the recipient also uses Dropbox.
SkyDrive and Google Drive go further, enabling you to share files with anyone over the internet and even work on documents, spreadsheets and presentations with other users simultaneously, in the cloud.
As yet, iCloud doesn't offer web access, easy file sharing or collaboration - its focus is more on single users.

Dropbox vs SkyDrive vs Google Drive vs iCloud: Verdict

It's difficult to compare these products directly against each other - remember that iCloud includes access to all your iTunes purchases (and doesn't count them against your storage quota), while Google has its own Music service for storing MP3s in the cloud for free.
There are several such caveats to consider.
iCloud is a no-brainer for anyone with an i-device or a Mac, but its support for other platforms and web access is weak, at least for now.
Likewise, SkyDrive is primarily of interest to users of Microsoft products - it integrates well with Windows 8 and Windows Phone, and the web-based versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint can come in very handy.
Dropbox v SkyDrive v Google Drive v iCloud
Microsoft's SkyDrive is heavily integrated into the new Windows 8 software
As Google lives and breathes the web, it's no surprise that Google Drive is fast and browser-friendly, with an online office suite that's always getting better.
Its desktop and mobile clients aren't as polished, but they are there, and work well enough.
This leaves Dropbox, which, right from its early days, has felt like a native operating system feature. In terms of syncing anything to anywhere, it remains the tool to beat.
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