Top Storage Providers
Cloud storage in the consumer segment is really hotting up, as providers across the spectrum vie for consumer data that would provide them with the scale to roll out a variety of value-added services. In this review, we will consider the seven leading services that account for most of the market, and help you decide the right one for your needs. The four parameters I consider are:
- size of free storage space;
- third-party integration;
- ease of access across multiple platforms; and
- value-added services.
I believe these to be the most important from an ordinary consumer perspective.
On one end of the spectrum, Dropbox provides you 2 GB of free space, while on the other end of the spectrum is Skydrive, with 7 GB of free space. The other five providers all offer 5 GB of free space. However, Apple and Amazon allow you to store music purchased from their stores for free—it’s not counted in the storage space. The winner in this parameter is Skydrive, although there is little to separate the others.
Access from multiple platforms
All the top providers support Web access and offer clients Mac OSX. Also, all but iCloud have a client for Windows. However, when it comes to Linux, nobody has a great client except for Dropbox. As regards Windows, Skydrive has a leg up, and in Windows 8 they are bringing out much better integration. Similarly, iCloud has the best app for Mac and iOS, while Amazon has the best integration for Kindle Fire. Overall, however, Dropbox wins this parameter, providing clients for all major desktop and mobile platforms. It also enables users to easily share documents with non-users.
Cloud storage is not a stand-alone feature for most people. You want to make sure your other cloud apps can easily work with the cloud storage app to keep all your data in a single place. Google drive is best if you are going to work a lot with Google Docs, and Skydrive has great support for Microsoft Office. However, Dropbox has the widest range of third-party support (including support for popular apps such as Evernote) since it is among the oldest players in the category and has among the most accessible APIs.
Since the sector is becoming commoditized, everybody is getting aggressive on additional value.Google Driveoffers amazingOCRtools to recognize images in your drive and deep search capabilities to easily retrieve the data you are searching for. Dropbox has added a lot of support for uploading photos automatically from mobile phones immediately after they are taken.Google Driveseems the most promising in this segment.
Cloud storage is becoming increasingly commoditized, and consumers have plenty of choice with comparable quality. In terms of ease of use and access, Dropbox is among the best. However, others are compensating for that by providing better integration with their own platforms. As providers try hard to differentiate themselves by providing additional value, we as consumers have a lot to gain.
By Balaji Viswanathan