Storing your files in the cloud, online is an easy way to ensure that you have access to them no matter where you are. Sharing folders between computers, and being able to access them on your phone anytime, anywhere is incredibly convenient. Your most important files are at your fingertips, whether you’re in the city or on the East End. As a bonus, having irreplaceable photos and other files in the cloud means that even the most catastrophic hard-drive failure won’t erase those memories.
There are quite a few competing services as far as cloud storage goes, and they all have their perks, depending on what you want to do with them. All of these services allow you to see the cloud drive as simply another folder on your computer—just one that happens to be available on all of your computers, as well as your phone and any other mobile devices that are supported.
Dropbox is perhaps the most high-profile cloud solution out there. Offering 2 GB for free (with plenty of opportunity to upgrade space through referrals and promotions), Dropbox also offers storage plans of 100–500 GB, priced at $10 per month per 100 GB. Dropbox has the most options for mobile use—there are apps for Android, iOS, Blackberry and even Kindle Fire. Dropbox also has a feature that allows you to automatically sync all the photos taken on your phone (or other mobile device) to a dedicated folder, automatically saving them.
Google Drive is, obviously, Google’s foray into cloud storage. Offering 15 GB of free storage, as well as 100 GB for $2 a month or 1 TB for $10 a month, Google also has a fairly robust set of online office software (formerly Google Docs) that allows you to open and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files no matter where you are.
Box is possibly the most complicated of all the options. Originally designed for IT professionals and programmers, there are myriad options for sharing and privacy settings on files. Box offers 10 GB of free storage and charges $10 a month for 100 GB. People who use Apple’s Pages, Numbers and Keynote software should be aware that Box does not support files made with those programs.
OneDrive, formerly known as SkyDrive, is Microsoft’s cloud storage option. If you use Windows 8 or 8.1, it’s embedded right into the operating system. This makes it very attractive for people who have a Windows computer or phone, though apps are available for Mac, Android and iOS as well. OneDrive costs $25 per year for 50GB, and you can get up to 200GB.
Apple will be offering iCloud Drive this fall, which will expand their currently offered iCloud storage to include files of any kind. iCloud will offer 5 GB of free storage, 20 GB for $0.99 a month, and 200 GB for $3.99 a month. If you’re in the Apple ecosystem, iCloud seems like it will end up being the best choice, with seamless integration between iOS and OS X. Also, iCloud’s file services will be integrated with the family sharing features that iCloud will be adopting, including calendar syncing, photo syncing and all sorts of other features that apply to friends and family.
Finally, Amazon Cloud Drive offers cloud storage through Amazon’s rock-solid servers. Amazon offers 5 GB for free, and has up to 1 TB available for $500 a year. Those looking at Amazon’s new Fire phone, note that it includes unlimited free photo storage.
Ultimately, there are a number of competing services in this arena. Regardless of whether you prefer Windows or Apple, a multitude of options or sheer simplicity, there’s a cloud storage solution that should work for you.