Cloud Storage Roundup

Files, Files, Everywhere

It wasn’t that long ago that everyone was nervous about saving data somewhere other than your hard drive.  Backing up consisted of tape drives, flash drives, external hard drives or some combination.  Today, “the cloud” is pervasive. and if you have a smartphone, chances are good you are already using the cloud on a daily basis.  Moving your data to the cloud can be a fairly painless process and will allow you to:

  • Access your files across multiple devices, wherever you have internet access
  • Collaborate easily with co-workers
  • Have an automatic, real-time backup of your files
  • Be able to recover multiple versions of a single file in case something gets corrupted or overwritten

There are several services out there that do essentially the same thing; which one you choose will depend largely on what device “ecosystem” you use (based largely on what kind of smartphone you have).  I’ll list what I consider the Top 5 services, based on integration, ease-of-use, and security.


  • Max Storage: 1TB (personal)/Unlimited (business)
  • Security: 256-bit encryption
  • Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry

Dropbox was one of the first file sync services and it continues to be one of the best.  Dropbox has an intuitive interface that is easy to manage whether using the web portal or an app.  It is platform independent, so whether you use an iPhone, Mac, PC, Android or Windows Phone, you’ll have access to your files wherever you are.  To me, Dropbox has been the standard for file sync and sharing for close to ten years.  It offers seamless sync, access from Mac, PC, Android, iPhone and Windows Phone, Blackberry and Kindle Fire.  Tons of apps and third-party services integrate with Dropbox, making it easy to keep everything in one place and be able to access and work with your files across a wide variety of apps and platforms.  There is always lots of talk about security with cloud storage (and rightly so).  Dropbox offers 256-bit encryption, meaning if you use a strong password, it would take a small super computer 6 months to a year to crack your password. That’s probably good enough for most people.  The longer and stronger your password is, the more effectively it will take advantage of the 256-bit encryption.  Dropbox has been my go-to file sync service for nearly 7 years, and I’ve only ever been tempted to switch by OneDrive (see below).

With a paid subscription, you get 1TB (yes, terrabyte – that’s 1000 gigabytes) of storage space.  It also automatically backs up photos and videos from your phone (as long as the app is installed and the feature enabled).  An upgrade to Dropbox for Business gets you enhanced collaboration features, more extensive versioning and greater administrative control.  Dropbox is also one of the few mainstream storage providers to give you bonus storage for referrals (Microsoft has said it will be phasing this out of OneDrive, but who knows for sure).  Free Plan: 2GB storage space. Paid Plan ($9.99/mo.): 1 TB storage. Business Plan ($15/user/mo.): Unlimited Storage.


  • Max Storage: 1TB (personal)/1TB (business)
  • Security: 256-bit encryption
  • Compatibility: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone

OneDrive is Microsoft’s foray into the world of cloud storage.  It seemed almost an afterthought when it was first introduce (as SkyDrive), but Microsoft has done a great job of maturing the service into something that is easy to recommend and it’s integration with Office 365 is (as you would expect) outstanding.  Nearly gone are the days of Microsoft’s draconian control and attempts to press you into forced servitude using their products; OneDrive is almost as cross-platform as Dropbox.  Integration is deep in Windows 8, 10 and Windows Phone (as you would expect), but it’s also excellent in Android and iOS.  Security is strong, using the same 256-bit encryption standard as Dropbox.  While Microsoft recently took some flack for downgrading the storage space, it still offers double the space as Dropbox for free and their 1TB plan also includes Office 365.  You can also increase your storage space through referrals (for as long as that program lasts) and by turning on Camera Roll on your phone through the OneDrive app.  By turning on Camera Roll, photos from your phone are automatically backed up and you get an extra 15GB of storage space.

And speaking of Office 365, welcome to the future of your office.  This is Microsoft’s killer deal and (to me) ace in the hole.  As Office 365 has become more mature, it has become far more viable to replace it’s long-standing desktop counterpart.  For the same price as a 1TB Dropbox account, you get an Office 365 subscription and 1TB of storage.  But (in the best salesman pitch tradition), that’s not all.  That $10/month covers 5 Office 365 accounts, each with 1TB of storage!  That means I essentially have a pseudo business-class file sync and collaboration suite for 5 users with a total of 5TB of storage.  By comparison, Dropbox charges $15/month, gives you unlimited storage, better admin control, but no Office.  See why I’m tempted?  Free Plan: 5GB storage space. Paid Plan 1 ($1.99/mo.): 50GB storage space.  Paid Plan 2: ($9.99/mo.): Office 365 + 1TB storage space.  Business Plan:  (Various Pricing – starts at $6/user/mo.): Office 365 + 1TB storage space.

Google Drive

  • Max Storage: 1TB (personal)/Unlimited (5+ users required)
  • Security: 128-bit encryption
  • Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS

Google Drive is, obviously, Google’s file storage/sync solution.  It is baked into Android OS and Chrome OS and has clients for iOS, Mac & PC as well.  For all their talk of open source love, Google has succumbed to technical politics by offering no Windows Phone or Kindle Fire client (or Blackberry, for whatever that’s worth) for Drive.  Sync across devices is, of course, seamless and comes with a camera upload feature as well.  In addition to the storage space, you also get access to Google Docs, which provides creation and editing of documents.  However, whereas Office 365 is a mature, robust product now capable of replacing the desktop version of Office for many people, Google Docs still feels like a half-baked attempt at a productivity suite and I have to wonder if Google will get bored with Docs and ax it completely.  Google Drive also “only” offers 128-bit encryption of files.  While this isn’t as strong as the other services summaried here, it is the SSL standard used by financial institutions to secure online transactions, so – in other words – sufficient for the everyman.

If you have an Android phone, Google Drive syncs all your photos to the cloud automatically.  Google Drive also offers one of the largest free amounts of storage at 15GB.  Google Drive for Business offers unlimited storage for $10/user/month for 5 or more users (1TB per user for less than 5 users).  There is a caveat with Google’s storage amounts: they are shared with Gmail, so if your Google Apps email accounts, or your Gmail account is bursting with attachments, that will reduce your overall storage with Google Drive if you are on a plan with a limit. Free Plan: 15GB storage space. Paid Plan ($9.99/mo.): 1 TB storage. Business Plan ($10/user/mo.): Unlimited Storage for 5+ users, 1TB for <5 users.


  • Max Storage: 100GB (personal)/Unlimited (business)
  • Security: 256-bit encryption
  • Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry

Box has been in the storage business a long time as well, but in recent years they have clearly geared themselves more toward business users. Their plans, features and services cater greatly to business and enterprise customers.  That’s not to say that they don’t have good plans for individuals, they offer two: Personal (free) and Personal Pro.  I have no problem recommending Personal.  It offers 10GB of storage, which is better than both Dropbox and OneDrive.  Their Personal Pro plan, however, I can’t recommend as it seems like an afterthought at $10/month for 100GB.  To some people that may sound like a lot, but that will go quickly if you start loading your photo and video library.

Business is the focus of Box and while they have 3 different plans (Starter, Business and Enterprise), it’s the Business Plan that is the one that’s really worthwhile for most businesses.  It offers unlimited storage for $15/user/month at a minimum of 3 users.  That’s pretty much on par with other services, but with Box, you get enhanced security features (enterprise mobility management, granular user permissions, mobile security, etc.) along with pretty robust reporting so you can keep track of who worked on what.  In addition, the Business Plan gives you access to the Box Content API, which allows hordes of third-party integration to Box.  The API supports everything from integration with Office 365 to FTP protocols for file transfers into Box.  It’s a great system that is pretty unique to Box.  Free Plan: 10GB storage space. Paid Plan 1 ($10/mo.): 100GB storage space.  Business Plan:  (Various Pricing – starts at $5/user/mo.): 100GB-Unlimted storage space.


  • Max Storage: 50GB (free)/4TB (paid)
  • Security: 256-bit end-to-end encryption, private key
  • Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry

Mega, arguably the successor to the file sharing site Megaupload (shutdown due to copyright infringement in 2012), Mega has become not only a legitimate cloud storage provider, but they have become a leader in file sharing security.  The key difference between Mega and every other service on this page is security.  All file sharing services encrypt your data between your computer and their servers and the data then remains encrypted until you retrieve it.  Mega goes even further by encrypting your files on your hard drive before they’re even sent to the Mega servers.  There is only one other file sharing service that provides end-to-end encryption like this (see honorable mentions below).  Your data is encrypted and you control the encryption key, which means not even law enforcement agencies or governments can force Mega to hand over your files.  In addition, Chrome and Firefox extensions enhance the secure transmission of your data.

Storage is also generous through Mega, with a free account providing 50GB of storage space.  Paid plans (there are four offerings as of this writing) vary in price from 5€/month for 200GB, up to 30€/month for 4TB.  Mega also sets itself apart in the bandwidth they provide for file transfers, offering anywhere from 1-8TB of bandwidth per month, making it one of the best and fastest services for actually sharing your files.  Free Plan: 50GB storage space. Paid Plan 1 (5€/mo.): 200GB storage space.  Paid Plan 2 (10€/mo.): 500GB storage space.  Paid Plan 3 (20€/mo.): 2TB storage space.  Paid Plan 4 (30€.mo.): 4TB storage space.

Honorable Mentions

The services below are each great in their own right:

  • SugarSync – Backs up your existing folder structure instead of making you put all your sync files in a special folder.
  • Copy – File sharing service from Barracuda, the leader in spam filtering and email security.**
  • SpiderOak – The only other provider I know of to offer end-to-end encryption with a private key to secure your data.
  • Tresorit – Really super secure.  Encrypted end-to-end with the addition of two-factor authentication (i.e. If someone steals your laptop, they will still need your phone to access your data).

Notable Absences

  • iCloud Drive – Works seamlessly across your Apple devices, but inexorably tied to the Apple ecosystem.  If you use any other device…ever, you’ll need a service that’s at least a little platform agnostic.  Great integration and collaboration with iWork (provided you can find someone else who uses iWork with whom you would want to collaborate).  Sync and storage options are not as robust as other providers.

The Skinny

So, here’s my breakdown on the above cloud storage services:

  • Use Dropbox if you want the easiest, most ubiquitous cross-platform file storage solution with a great business upgrade option.
  • Use OneDrive if you have a Microsoft account, Windows Phone or want the best Office 365 integration.
  • Use Google Drive if you have a Chromebook and an Android phone or are married to your Gmail account.
  • Use Box if you’re a business user with the need to integrate random third-party services.
  • Use Mega if you share lots of files or very large files and need tons of bandwidth or are super concerned with security.

**Barracuda recently announced it would be shuttering its cloud  storage service.

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