Online Storage Wars: Which Virtual Storage Is Best?


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Laptops crash, external hard drives die, and smartphones fall into toilets. Online storage can save your files, but not all clouds are created equal.

A while ago on the way to a meeting my friend got out of a cab too quickly and dropped his laptop bag, smashing his laptop and external hard drive. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he lost the only copy of a software program he was working on. Four months of hard work smashed on the sidewalk.

It got me thinking that I should store my important files, photos, and MP3s somewhere secure online, so I started looking into cloud storage. Everyone from Amazon to Apple offers their own version of online storage. It is the war of the clouds with everyone offering different prices, uploading tools, and limitations. So which storage option is the best? Here is what I found…

Apple iCloud

Currently, Apple offers 5GB of free storage when you sign up for iCloud, but like most Apple products, you really only get the best use out of it if you own Apple products. If you own a Macbook, iPad, or iPhone, you can automatically synchronize all of your devices through iTunes and store files or music on the iCloud. Also, iTunes Store purchases – including apps, books, music, and movies – don’t count against your storage limit.

Cost:

  • 5GB: Free
  • 10GB: $20 per year
  • 20GB: $40
  • 50GB: $100

Amazon Cloud Drive

Cloud Drive is also offering 5GB of online storage free, which Amazon says is enough to store 2,000 photos. Amazon’s online storage has a few good features. For example, you can view your stored photos in a slideshow online or through the Cloud Drive desktop app. If you have a Kindle Fire, you can download files to the device from Cloud Drive.

The only real downside is the Cloud Drive desktop app. You’ll have to download and install the software to upload and manage your files. I found the software to be a bit clunky and slow to upload larger files, but it didn’t cause any big problems.

Cost:

  • 5GB: Free
  • 20GB: $10 per year
  • 50GB: $25
  • 100GB: $50
  • 200GB: $100
  • 500GB: $250
  • 1,000GB: $500

Dropbox

The basic Dropbox account only comes with 2GB of free storage, but Dropbox has a few features that make it worth checking out. For one, you get three ways to upload files: using the “Upload” button on the Dropbox website, the Dropbox desktop app, or the Dropbox iPhone app. You can also share files or entire folders with anyone who has an account.

The free space offered isn’t a lot, but you can get up to 18GB free through their referral program. For every person you refer who signs up, you’ll get another 500MB of storage free.

Cost:

  • 2GB: Free
  • 100GB: $99 per year
  • 200GB: $199
  • 500GB: $499

Google Drive

Like Amazon and Apple, Google is offering 5GB of free storage when you sign up for Google Drive, but Google has a few features that make Drive a better bet. For example, Google Drive is a collaborative storage space, meaning you can upload a file or photo and share it with anyone via email. When someone shares a file with you, you can view it online even if you don’t have the software that supports the file type. Google Drive also has the option of creating and editing files directly from your storage space. I use it to create spreadsheets and other documents.

Google Drive works with PCs and Macs and has an app that works on iPads and iPhones and Android phones and tablets.

Cost:

  • 5GB: free
  • 25GB: $30 per year
  • 100GB: $60
  • 200GB: $120
  • 400GB: $240
  • 1,024 GB (1TB): $600

The bottom line

Overall, Google Drive was the winner in my book. It has the most features, was the easiest to use, and works on the most devices. The only real downside I found was the lack of free storage space. 5GB is enough for storing word documents, spreadsheets, and photos but you’ll probably need more space if you want to store larger documents or a bunch of MP3s. For storage space, I did better with Dropbox since I was able to talk a bunch of people into signing up and upped my free storage.

Stacy Johnson

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