Free and cheap personal and small business online cloud storage is everywhere. How do you decide which one is right for you?

In 2007, Drew Houston, Dropbox’s CEO, got sick and tired of misplacing his USB drive, so he created the first personal and small business cloud storage service. It was a radical one in its day. Today, everyone seems to be offering cheap or free cloud storage.

This type of storage is a step up from the tradition storage methods. The  benefits of online cloud storage include:

    • users can easily drag and drop files into files that are stored remotely.
    • the stored files can be easily accessed from anywhere in the world.
    • every business should have a backup plan in case of an emergency.
    • your stored data is distributed across many servers so that it is safe from any hardware failure.
    • stored data is easily shared with coworkers and clients in a secure manner in real time.
    • data backups can be done through automation.
    • you only pay for the resources that you actually use.
    • no more server maintenance and the fear of losing your data.
    • a free account probably isn’t enough storage space for a business but for a home user, it is usually enough to safeguard your documents and pictures.

I personally use Google Drive. Because I use gmail and have a lot of Office documents, everything is automatically synced and I don’t have to think about it at all. As a matter of fact, it backs up more than I want most of the time and I have to go through my backups and delete the things that I want to keep private. Cloud storage is effortless and seamless and there is no reason for anyone to not be doing it, whether a home or business user.

Most people decided simply on the basis of how much free storage space they get. And they get comfortable using one product and don’t want to bother with trying something else (unless the price difference is substantial). So don’t discount how well each service could work for you.

Here are some of the most popular services and what each offers:

AMAZON DRIVE

  • Amazon Drive finally has sync services for Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows. Alas, it doesn’t have a Linux client.
  • On the plus side, Amazon moves files by using block-level file copying,” aka “differential sync” or “delta sync.” With this method, which Dropbox uses as well, when you sync a file, you only send and receive the differences, the delta, between files. This makes syncing files much faster on these services than their rivals.
  • Amazon Drive also includes features taskbar notifications. These enable you to keep an eye on your file transfers. It also enables you to throttle sync speeds when you’re busy with say a bandwidth hungry video-conference in the foreground.
  • This online cloud storage service used to offer an unlimited plan. Amazon dropped that plan in 2017. Amazon Prime member get 5GB of storage for use with Amazon Drive and unlimited photo storage with Prime Photos. If you want more, Amazon’s current annual storage plans start at 100GB) for $11.99 and 1TB for $59.99. At most, you can get 30TB for $1,799.70.

The bottom line, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, Amazon Drive is worth it. If not, let’s keep looking.

BOX

  • You can get a free Box cloud storage account with 10GB of storage, and for $10 a month with the Box Personal Pro Plan, you get 100GB of space.
  • Where Box really shines is as a groupware or work-flow application. Used that way, it enables you to share files with colleagues, assign tasks, leave comments on someone’s work, and get notifications when a file changes.
  • The Box Business Plan for small and medium-sized businesses offers unlimited storage, integrates with Google Docs and Office 365, and costs $15 per month per user.
  • Besides unlimited storage, the Business Plan lets you have files as large as 5GB. It also works with Active Directory (AD) and single-sign on (SSO).
  • Box excels at file privacy and data encryption. You get full read/write permissions control over your files and directories. In addition, you can also hook up Box to numerous business applications such as Salesforce and NetSuite. This really is an online cloud storage service for business users.

Box is best suited for a business IT environment. Its real value comes if you deploy it in your company, not just as a way to store and share files but to run team projects. This is the one my daughter uses for her small business. It was recommended to her by a business associate and she is used to it now and would recommend it to others.

DROPBOX

  • Dropbox‘s free storage is only 2GB, but you can use it on any platform. You can get to your files from Dropbox’s website, desktop applications for Mac, Windows, and Linux, their native files systems, and the iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Kindle Fire mobile apps. It’s a snap to set up, and you don’t need to worry about syncing files.
  • It’s also easy to add free storage for nothing. Take the Getting Started tutorial, and you get 250MB more room. Get a mobile app and turn on the automatic photo upload feature, and you get 3GB of extra space. You can also earn 500MB for each friend you get to sign up for Dropbox for up to 16GB in all.
  • If you need more storage — a lot more storage — Dropbox Business plans starts at 3TB for $12.50 a month. If you need even more Dropbox offers unlimited storage starting at $20 per user per month. All these plans comes with a 30-day free trial.
  • Where Dropbox really shines is its simplicity and the fact that you can use it on almost any platform.

If you value simple, fast, and easy, Dropbox should be your first choice. I don’t need to tell you that. You’re probably already using it.

GOOGLE DRIVE

  • You get 15GB of free storage and an excellent office suite. It’s good enough that many businesses and every Chromebook user is now using it as their complete cloud-based office.
  • If you are still using Microsoft Office and not Google Docs, use a Google Chrome extension to view and edit Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files with Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
  • Need more storage? Google Drive storage prices starts at $1.99 per month for 100GB, or for $2.99 a month you get 200GB a month. For a 1TB, you pay $9.99 per month, and 10TB costs $99.99 per month. You can go all the way up to 30TB for $299.99 a month. With all these plans, you can share your storage with your family.
  • If you buy a new Chromebook you can get at least 100 GB of free storage for 2 years. If you buy a high-end PixelBook, you get at least 100 GB of free storage for 2 years. When your free storage expires, all of your files will remain in Drive and you can use, download, or share them whenever you want. If you need additional storage, you can buy more.
  • To build a business around Google Drive, Google Drive for Work includes unlimited storage for files, folders, and backups for $8 per user per month plus $0.04 per GB. With it, you can sync all your business files, including Microsoft Office files, across your computer, smartphone, and tablet to access your work whenever you need it.
  • There are apps for Google Drive for Android, iOS, Mac OS X, and Windows. Unfortunately, there is not a Linux app, even though Google Drive is built into Chrome OS, and Google has promised us a Linux app for years. There is a third-party app, InSync, but it would be nice to have a Google Drive native Linux app.
  • Recently, Google updated and renamed its macOS and Windows application to Backup & Sync. This gives you the power to sync or backup almost any file or folder on your computer.
  • For G Suite users, there’s Google Drive Stream. This storage service streams files to a machine from the cloud rather than syncing them between the device and the cloud. This service turns Google Drive into more of a hard-drive replacement than a cloud storage service add-on.

For Chromebook or Google power user, Google Drive is a no-brainer. It’s the best cloud storage option for you. This is the one I use and it has been more than enough storage and super easy to use and FREE. I recommend it for all home and business users.

ICLOUD DRIVE

  • iCloud Drive shows to its best advantage when used with Apple’s latest gear, but even then it’s erratic.
  • When using a Mac or an iDevice, Apple’s iCloud comes with 5GB of free storage. If you’re using it from Windows, you can get 1GB. iCloud offers 50GB for 99 cents per month. You get 200GB for $2.99, and 2TB costs $9.99 per month.
  • Like Google Drive, iCloud Drive is also integrated with an office suite, albeit it’s only Apple’s beginner’s office applications: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.
  • Unlike the other services, there is no business version of iCloud Drive. While it supports Windows, doesn’t support Android.
  • There could be some confusion between iCloud and iCloud Drive. They’re not the same thing. Contacts, Notes, Photos, and Reminders get backed up to iCloud, but TextEdit, iMovie, and Mail data gets backed up in iCloud Drive.

iCloud Drive, is prone to be slow and quirky. Syncing files between my Macs and iDevices is troublesome. iCloud for business solution is not a viable option for now. For personal backup use, it is acceptable.

IDRIVE

  • iDrive is for anyone who like to combine a cloud backup service with a cloud storage. While it’s main job is for backing up personal and small businesses, it also works well for personal online cloud storage.
  • iDrive offers 5GB of storage for free. For addition storage, you need Personal iDrive. For 2TB, the cost is $52.12 for a year or for 5TB, it’s an even better deal of $74.62 annually. There are also business packages with unlimited users, but the price goes up for less storage. It’s 250GB for $74.62.
  • A unique feature is, unlike many other cloud-backup services, iDrive doesn’t lock you down to a single computer. You can use one account to backup your Windows and macOS desktops, your Android smartphone and iPhones and tablets, and network drives. There’s also a Linux backup option, but it’s meant for Linux servers. There is no Linux personal storage.
  • iDrive enables you to retain deleted files and old file versions for a comprehensive backup solution. Still, another plus is that iDrive backups are done continuously and in real time, so once the initial setup is complete, your drive only has to do quick updates to keep your data safe.
  • If you want to make your backup or storage safe from hackers, iDrive gives you the option of using a private AES 256 encryption key. When they say “private,” they really mean private. If you lose the key, no one can get to your files.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a personal or sole-proprietorship backup, iDrive demands a long, hard look. It’s both easy to use and inexpensive.

NEXTCLOUD

  • Nextcloud is an ownCloud fork. It is open-source which enable you to set up your own online cloud storage service using your existing hard drives.
  • In short, if don’t trust your data to Apple, Google, Microsoft, or anyone else, this is the do-it-yourself way:
    • You can use Nextcloud to set up your own cloud storage either on an office server or on your own external servers. NextCloud, while easy to set up for a Linux power-user, might prove a challenge for some. Still, if you want real control, this is the system for you.
  • Nextcloud desktop clients include Linux, macOS, and Windows and mobile apps for Android and iOS. You can also use the WebDAV protocol to directly integrate Nextcloud drives into your local file system.
  • Nextcloud is more than just an easy way to set up a private Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud. The Nextcloud suite of programs also include Nextcloud Talk for private web-conferencing and NextCloud Groupware, for e-mail, calendaring, and contacts.

This cloud storage solution is for anyone who wants the maximum amount of control over their cloud and doesn’t mind doing some extra work to get it just right.

ONEDRIVE

  • Formerly SkyDrive, Microsoft’s OneDrive is what Apple wants iCloud Drive to be when it grows up. Starting with Windows 8, OneDrive is integrated into the operating system.
  • To a Windows user, OneDrive is just another directory in the file explorer. So easy that anyone can use it on the web, with a desktop app for Mac and earlier versions of Windows, and with OneDrive apps for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Xbox.
  • OneDrive’s real advantage is it works closely with Microsoft Office programs. With Office 365 you can collaborate with in documents and spreadsheets in real time with your partners.
  • If you want OneDrive into your business, Microsoft offers OneDrive for Business. But this is not just a storage plan. Like Google Drive has been merged into Google Docs, OneDrive for Business is a marriage of OneDrive and Office 365. With Office 365 Business, Business Essentials, or Business Premium plans, the prices start at $5 per month per user, with an annual commitment. With any of these packages, you get 1TB of storage per user.

For anyone who is committed to Windows and Microsoft Office, this is the option for you.

So, what’s the best cloud storage for you?

It depends on what you use and what you want to do with it.

Each company gives you more than enough free or cheap solutions for small business purposes.

Don’t be distracted by how many free gigabytes of storage you get; it’s not that important. How a particular service fits your needs is more important.

Here is a recap of the best features and which service offers it:

    • All-in-one office/cloud/workflow: Box, Google Drive, or Nextcloud
    • Apple users: Amazon, Dropbox, or Google Drive (until iCloud Drive matures)
    • Backup: iDrive.
    • Ease of use and multiple devices: Dropbox
    • Google users: Google Drive
    • Linux users: Nextcloud
    • Users who place high value on having data control: Box or Nextcloud
    • Windows users: OneDrive

I hope this helps you to find a service and start saving and backing up your files to the cloud. It will make your life much easier.

This creation is allowing workers to complete tasks on their own timetables without having to spend long hours in the office anymore. There are so many applications and services that are taking advantage of the cloud. Use of the cloud will allow business to grow, be able to offer quicker responses, be more efficient and lower their operating costs.

The cloud is being used in financial services, healthcare, insurance, to read and research, allows ideas to develop and gets people excited about the possibilities of new concepts that this platform is capable of.

 

If you have a comment or question, please leave me a message in the Reply box below and I will be happy to reply.

 

2 Comments

  1. Hello Jean, I found this so informative. It took me to a world I knew nothing about.
    I’m still backing-up on a USB drive. I’ve Windows 10 and Office 16 and the local guys I purchased from suggested I keep backing up on my USB.
    What cloud storage system would be the easiest for a ‘newbie’?

    Reply
    • Hi Honor,
      If you use gmail, try using Google Drive. Then you will be able to try it out to see how you like it. Your files will always to safe and you will be able to access them from anywhere.

      It is free and there for you to use. When you login to gmail, in the top right-hand side, at the top, there is a rubik’s cube. If you left-click on the cube, you will see Drive. Just click on it and you are in your Drive account. Click on the My Drive arrow near the top of the page and you are ready to upload your files and folders. This will allow you to see how easy it is to do a backup. You get 15 GB free, which includes your gmails. That’s enough space to store 5,000 photos, 3,750 mp3s and over 30 million – 1,000 word – Word documents. That should be enough space to last you a long time. Maybe you will want to put your business docs on it. It will always tell you how much room is left so that you won’t be caught off guard. Good luck on choosing a good storage option but I really think this is a good one for you.

      Reply

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