Monday, September 12, 2011

Online Cloud Storage Review


With the advent of things like Netbooks (laptops that either have no hard drive to speak of, instead using a solid state device, or have a small hard drive), cloud storage has become a necessity in this day and age.  Cloud storage is nothing more than storage for your files and media, provided by companies that are either able to or specialize in that service.

The storage itself ranges from a couple of gigabytes up to the Terabytes, providing more than enough storage for your average user and their files.  The nice thing about a lot of the cloud storage options is that you can typically access your files from anywhere and any computer or device with web access (or an installed app, such as a mobile smart phone).

I personally tend to use the storage for things like my music (in mp3 format) and also for documents that I want to have access to wherever I am.  I have had a number of friends ask me about the different options that I knew of for online storage so that got me thinking, "Hello, blog post.".

I went out and did a search for online storage and quickly realized that not only was I getting hits for what I was looking for, which is storage that one could access but others could not see, but also the more 'social' storage options like media fire, where you upload files up to your storage limit and others can see the files that you have uploaded.  This did not work for me as I am a bit security conscious and there are plenty of things that I really don't want to share with others.  Granted, I don't put the really sensitive stuff online. Things such as credit card numbers, password and other such goodies should never be put into the open like that, unless you are asking for trouble.

So, after weeding through a plethora of hits from my Google search, I made myself a list of the services that I wanted to review.  I limited them to having at least 2 gigabytes of storage at a minimum.  The features provided by each of these companies varies from site to site, so if you are trying to decide on some storage, please remember to take the time and review all of the features offered.  You may find that paying that little bit per month (in some cases) is well worth it for your needs.

A number of these are relatively inexpensive for the amount of space provided.  Of course, there are also those that are a bit pricey for those of us looking for the cheapest, yet reliable way to store our data.  All in all, do your homework and find something that fits your needs and your budget as best as you can.  Worst case you could always invest $129 in a 3 terabyte external drive and store your files locally, yourself.  That way you pay one time for the storage and are solely responsible to yourself for keeping your data safe and backed up.  For those that want their data online, here is what I found out about the services that I reviewed.

Dropbox:   First up is one of the more popular services and one of the primary that I use.  A DropBox free account nets you 2 gigabytes (gb) of space when you sign up.  The nice thing about Dropbox that most other services don't provide is that you can send out invitations to your friends and family to join as well and any of them that use your invitation to sign up, they get 250mb extra and so do you.  The more people that accept the offer the more space that you can accumulate for yourself and best of all, your limit is raised forever, not just for a limited time.  The only catch is that the free accounts are capped at 8 gb of storage.  So, once you get enough people to join to give you that much space, you are capped and only they get the extra bit.  Once you sign up though, you have some signup tasks to complete that will also net you some initial extra space.  One thing I really like about dropbox is the application that you download and install onto your system that does all the synching.  Upon installation you setup your Dropbox folder.  This is the folder where you "drop" anything that you want storred online.  Once you drop a file in the folder it is automatically uploaded to the server and available.  If you have the application also installed on any other machines, the file(s) you uploaded are automatically synched with them, downloading to their dropbox folder since you would be signed in with the same account. If you want more space, you can upgrade to a paid plan and pay about $10 per month for 50 gb or 100gb for $19.99 per month.  The desktop application for Dropbox is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OSx.

Spideroak:   The free account on Spideroak is limited to 2 gb and unlike Dropbox I didn't see any offers to increase this for free.  They have an upgrade to 100 gb for $10 per month, which is 1/2 the cost of what Dropbox wants for 100 gb.  When you sign up, you enter your name, email and user name and upon clicking "Create Account" the application you need is auto downloaded to your machine (or prompted to download if you have your settings as such).  After the app is downloaded go ahead and install it.  When you run it for the first time you will need to first specify a password for your account, after which you go right into the application.  In the app you will have to specify the folders that you want to backup.  If you want a different folder that isn't listed, just click "Advanced" in the upper right and select the folder you want to use.

Box.net:   Box.net only has online access for the free accounts.  To get a desktop app you need to have a paid account.  The free account allots you 5 gb of space, while the paid accounts are 25 gb for $10 per month.   Much less space for the money on the paid account than you get with Dropbox or Spideroak.

Syncplicity:   Free account limited to 2 gb of space.  Paid account has 50 gb for $15 per month.  Again, a touch more expensive for less space.  This has an app available for download, but is only for Windows and Mac users.  Linux is not supported.

ADrive:   The free account for ADrive is set to 50gb.  That is an impressive amount for a free account.  Unfortunately it was quickly discovered that the upload speed for this service is incredibly slow.  I was only getting about 2-3K per second when attempting to upload a small, 2 megabyte file.   Also, there are ads in the free account.  To get rid of the ads you would have to have one of their paid accounts.  There is no desktop app or synching available for the free account with this service.  It is completely web based for uploading and downloading.  The paid accounts have a desktop app but its only for uploading, downloading and scheduled runs.  No synching for that either.

Zumodrive:   I said in the beginning that I was limiting this list to services with a minimum of 2 gb of space for free.  Well, with Zumodrive you only get 1 gb initially, but upon completing their dojo (tutorial), you get an extra 1 gb added to your allotment.  There are paid plans that offer:  10 gb for $2.99/month, 25 gb for $6.99/month, 50 gb for $9.99/month, 100 gb for $19.99/month, 200 gb for $37.99/month and 500 gb for $79.99/month.  For their app they support Windows, Linux, Mac OSx, Android, iPhone and even Palm Pre.  One nicety about this service is that it claims to integrate smoothly with iTunes so that you can store your music in the cloud and simply download playlists for listening instead of taking up your diskspace with storing the mp3s.  If your a heavy iTunes user, that may be something to consider.

iDrive:   This service offers 5 gb of space for free.  It also offers paid accounts of 150 gb for $4.95/month and 500 gb for $14.95 per month.  Considerably cheaper than some of the others.  The list of features for this service is quite nice and should definitely be reviewed by those considering it.  This service is geared heavily towards being an online place to back up your data, not just store it.  They offer a desktop app with scheduling and folder watch/synching and even offer versioning for files (that way you can get an earlier version of a file if needed), but its limited to the last 30 versions of the file.

Mimedia:   This has one of the larger free space allotments, coming in at a whopping 7 gb.  You can upgrade to a paid account and get 250 gb for $9.99/month, 500 gb for $20/month or 1 Terabyte for $35/month.  For the price, this service ranks up there at one of the cheaper ones for "space for your buck".  They tout themselves as media storage (audio, video, photos), but also support regular files and backups as well.  There is no desktop app that I could find so you are limited to using the web interface with this service.

Skydrive:   This is a free service provided by Microsoft, for those users with a Hotmail/Live email account.  It provides you with 25 gb of free storage for your Microsoft Office or other files..  There is no desktop app so you must use the web interface.  While it doesn't have an app, 25 gb is still a sizable amount of space, and its free.

Amazon Cloud Drive:   If you have an amazon account, then you can get access to the Amazon Cloud Drive service.  They provide an initial 5 gb of space for free with the option of upgrading to a paid account with 20 gb for $20/year, 50 gb for $50/year, 100 gb for $100/year and so on, up to 1 Terabyte for $1000/year.  Initially it seems costly, but those are yearly costs.  Divide by 12 and it breaks down a bit more sensibly.  The 100 gb allotment is less than $10/month.  Like others, there is no desktop app and you are limited to their web interface for uploads and downloads.  One nice thing though is that songs purchased through amazon.com can be stored here and do not count toward your space used.  Plus, for a limited time (no idea when this promotion ends), they are offering the storage of unlimited music files for free on all paid accounts.  This means that it wouldn't effect your storage used.  And it doesn't say that the songs had to be purchased through them either, but I would read the fine print to be sure.  If they don't require that, then this is a pretty sweet deal for those with gigantic music collections.

Opendrive:   This is the final service reviewed.  The free account offers 5 gb of space.  You can upgrade to 100 gb for $5/month, 500 gb for $15/month or 1 Tb for $35/month.  These are some pretty decent rates for the storage amount.  The free account is limited to 200K max speed though, so be warned.  The paid accounts are not metered. Also, there is no auto synching for the free account.

Well, those are the services that I have reviewed.  I hope that this helps you a bit in your decision to choose an online cloud storage provider.  As always, check the features and always read the fine print.  Make sure of what you are signing up for before you click.

2 comments:

Eran Smith said...

Loved you posts. Nice work !!


.net Obfuscator

jlk said...

Thanks, Eran! Much appreciated.

 
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.