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According to Wikipedia, a cloud is a visible mass of liquid droplets or frozen crystals made of water and that has been the case since the beginning of time. The world we live in today has another definition for cloud, which is the idea of storing data securely on the internet in a way that allows you to access your data where ever you are. John McCarthy envisioned the concept of cloud computing back in the ’60s and today we are seeing his original idea become more mainstream than ever.

Review

There are many uses for cloud computing and cloud storage both for enterprises and individuals.  For now, we will focus on the current front runners. Back in 2004, Google hit us with G-drive, probably the first concept we saw of cloud storage and over the years, we have seen G-drive disappear and reappear in various forms.

In 2007, we saw Dropbox hit the scene and that same year, Microsoft entered the arena with Windows Live Folders, which is called SkyDrive today. There are other products available but these are the three platforms I want to compare.

Players

Storage costs have declined over the years and the cost for cloud storage is actually quite reasonable, although not consistent across these various platforms. All 3 platforms offer some amount of free space as a carrot to lure you in, then an option to buy more. Dropbox starts you out with 2GB for free and Google offers 5GB for free. SkyDrive is the most generous in this game by offering 7GB, however if you were an existing SkyDrive user before this week, you were automatically bumped up to 25GB! For the average user, any one of these free offers is probably adequate, however for the power user of storage, you have options.

Google will sell you 20GB up to 16TB for $0.60/GB. That’s a lot of data for not a lot of cash on the table. Dropbox offers 50GB or 100GB for about $2/GB, however the cheapest player in this game is SkyDrive, at less than $0.40/GB for up to 100GB

All 3 of these platforms have an app than gives you a Favorites folder on Windows 7 so you can access it through Computer and transfer files back and forth. That is a very handy feature that makes your files easy to access. They also each have their own app for iPhone and Android devices and SkyDrive gives you an app that directly integrates with the file system on your Android device or iPhone so you can move files back and forth easily between your device and SkyDrive.

Privacy

A valid concern with cloud storage is privacy and the idea that someone else might have access to your data. Each platform has a privacy policy here, here and here and the main thing is to read the one for the platform you are interested in and make sure that it satisfies you. The main things you want to look at are how secure they keep your data, how they feel they can use your data and who actually owns your data once you store it with them. Privacy is probably something worthy to write about as its own topic.

How To Choose?

SkyDrive is a great deal, with the online version of Office, which includes nearly fully functional versions of MS Word, MS Excel and MS Powerpoint. If you are an existing customer, then add 25GB on for free and you have a sweet setup. Dropbox gives you 500MB additional for free for every referral you make so that adds a great deal of appeal. Google is a giant in many ways online so that may be appealing to you for that reason alone.

Conclusion

This has been an exciting couple of weeks in the world of online storage, better known as the Cloud. Some have been anticipating the day when cloud storage and synchronization would be seamless and others keep their distance in well justified fear.

Where do you stand on cloud storage?

Reference:
Dropbox
SkyDrive
Google Drive 

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About The Author

Avatar of Jim Walton

Jim Walton has lived in every state that touches Oklahoma except one. Jim is a Server Admin and quasi-master of all things IT related for a major cabinet manufacturer in Dallas, TX. In 2004 he started a blog called Church Tech Matters where he wrote on a variety of current tech issues as they related to the church. Currently, Jim writes at JimWalton.org on a variety of topics, including leading volunteers and team building and also at One Man's Blog and GeekBeat.TV. Online, Jim can be found at Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Google+.

8 Responses

  1. Allison

    Hey guys, just thought I’d let you know about Just Cloud, a new cloud system I bumped into recently. Easy and straight forward :)

    justcloud

  2. Zig Baird

    “…All 3 of these platforms have an app than gives you a Favorites folder on Windows 7 so you can access it through Computer and transfer files back and forth….”

    I’m not sure about Skydrive and I haven’t set up my Google drive yet but if you’re a Mac user, Dropbox also seamlessly integrates with the Mac platform as well with a “Favorites” folder. I use Dropbox on my Win7 machine, my 2 Macs and my iPad and iPhone. With so much data transferring back and forth between my devices, Dropbox works very well. I pay for the 50GB option and through referrals and beta tests, I’m over 60GB now.

  3. Todd King

    “…..and SkyDrive gives you an app that directly integrates with the file system on your Android device……..”

    Not true. There are some third party apps that give you SkyDrive access from your Android device, but nothing SkyDrive/Microsoft.

    From http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/skydrive/skydrive-mobile.

    “Android and other phones
    If you have an Android or another phone, you can still use SkyDrive. Just open your phone’s web browser and go to SkyDrive.com. You might need to sign in with your Windows Live ID. Find the file or photo you’d like to view, and tap it.”

  4. Wayne boxall

    The one you missed is Sugarsync. Best option out there as you can sync any number of folders..

    I have over 20Gb free.

  5. Stephan V

    Synology’s Cloud Station behaves pretty much like Dropbox, except that the “cloud” service is in your private cloud, running on your own server. Space is only limited to your own server’s capacity. But it does require a Synology NAS server. But those don’t come without their own share of awesomeness and apps too!

  6. blackfeathers

    firstly, i’d love a cloud storage where you are not enslaved to a subscription fee -whether it’s free or paid. by that i mean pay once, get a chunk of space. i see it just like buying a virtual usb flash drive. i just bought the thing, spo why should i keep on paying for it? (yes, i understand there’s backend operations and maintenance that is required for it to keep running. but perhaps i’m thinking too far ahead progressively in technology where such a thing is already discounted as standard service operational costs?)

    anyways, here’s my opinions on the three aforementioned services:

    skydrive
    having more than one hotmail address for different tasks, i’ve tried to ‘upgrade’ skydrive to 25gb but got mixed results. it gave me a chance to click through to 25gb on one account, and not another one. i tried on another account and it still let me upgrade. the accounts were not linked in any way but found it variable and strange that some were allowed and some were not.

    the upgrade is technically a downgrade because they originally gave out 25 gb of storage space until fairly recently. before downgrading to 7 gb, they are doing this ‘upgrade’ for those who are actually paying attention probably to weed out those who aren’t using it.

    dropbox
    in my opinion, this is by far the most transparent and seamless service to date. it can run the most ubiquitous on most commonly used devices. 2gb for starters isn’t all that much but referrals and the google adwords referral tricks are ways to up it to 16gb max and for free. i’d just wish they had a pay once business model.

    google drive
    it’s still lacking mobile device support in the ios arena, so it’s not of much functional use for me at this time in terms of ubiquity across devices. but, i love how you can share specific folders with specific devices. that’s a competitive advantage right off the bat. i certainly see this as a serious competitor to dropbox. as with my opinion on dropbox, it should have a pay once model too.

    the cloud in general
    aside from service comparisons, what makes dropbox stand out is third party apps and services that allow you to interface with it. i believe these third party services should give users a choice of what cloud service to implement with them -making cloud services altogether much more useful, and thus, way more valuable.

    they can also make cloud backups of cloud backups -mirroring content of one service to another. having experienced several online services that have crashed and lost their data – magnolia bookmarks as a prime example – or have gone out of business or bought out, users could certainly use storage redundancy.

    for instance, a third party app could upload content to icloud, skydrive, google drive, spideroak and dropbox simultaneously to an encrypted folder where boxcryptor could easily encrypt all files seamlessly. bam! one usecase action broadcasted across multiple streams. we broadcast multiple content across multiple platforms with a single action on services like instagr.am and ping.fm, for example.

    what i would love is platform and hardware independence. i see bountiful potential for collaborative competition and innovation across cloud services with apps and a pay once model some time, any time, down the line. i just hope such things won’t be hindered by crossing over any stifling business models, patent wars and closed-up proprietary endeavours or byte-by-byte data caps.

  7. Andrei

    I’m using DropBox to sync between work and home and 2GB are enough for that. For all my other needs I use SkyDrive which is also nicely integrated with my Windows Phone :)