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 and their uncle seems to be offering cheap or free cloud storage.
Also: How to sync multiple cloud storage services for free TechRepublic
That’s great! Except, well, how do you choose which one is right for you? It used to be that most people decided simply on the basis of how much free storage space they got. That’s simple, but it only tells part of the story.
The real value from a cloud storage service comes from how well it works for you. As you’ll see, some work much better with some operating systems and business plans than others.
It’s odd. Amazon does a great job with its cloud storage service Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for developers and IT. But Amazon Drive for personal and business users has never been a first-tier storage service.
Mind you, it has gotten better. At long, long last, Amazon Drive has sync services for Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows. Alas, it doesn’t have a Linux client.
Also: How Amazon and VMware are building one cloud for both
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 cloud storage service used to offer an unlimited plan. But Amazon dropped that plan in 2017. Today, Amazon Prime member get 5GB of torage 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.
My bottom line is, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, Amazon Drive is worth it. If you’re not, keep looking.
Sure, 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, but that’s like using a Rolls-Royce to pull a U-Haul trailer.
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.
Also: Box, IBM intro new services for building Box Skills with Watson
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 a cloud storage service for business users.
Like the other services, you can use your files via Box’s website and even create basic text documents. To make it shine, you’ll need the Box Sync and Edit apps for Windows or Mac OS X. It also comes with Android, iOS, and Windows Phone apps that will enable you to view, upload and share files. Box is also now integrated directly with Google’s Chrome OS or Chromebooks users.
Box is best suited for a business IT buy. 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.
Who doesn’t use Dropbox? Sure, its 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 for a second.
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 ta-da 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.
Also: Dropbox bolsters smart search capabilities with automatic text
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 shines the most is its sheer simplicity — and the simple fact that you can use it on almost any platform you care to name.
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 used to be just storage. But then Google took its online office suite, Google Docs, and pasted them together. Now, for simply having a Google account, 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.
Still wedded to Microsoft Office and not Google Docs? No problem. With a Google Chrome extension, you can view and edit Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files with Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
Also: Google Drive comment functionality now includes Microsoft files
Need more storage? No problem. 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.
In addition, if you buy a new Chromebook you can get more storage. With any Chromebook you’ll now get a free 1TB of storage for two years. If you buy a high-end PixelBook, you get free storage for three years.
After the free deal expires, you still get to keep the storage you use. So, for example, if you use 500GB of your free 1TB, after a year and a day, you will still have 500GB of free storage.
If you want to build your business around Google Drive, you can do that too. 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. Annoyingly, 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, which I highly recommend, but I still want 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.
If you’re a Chromebook or Google power user, I don’t need to sell you on Google Drive. It’s the best cloud storage option for you. Personally, while I’ve use all these storage services, Google Drive is the one I use every day.
Apple’s cloud entry is awkward. iCloud Drive shows to its best advantage when you use it with Apple’s latest and greatest gear, but even there it’s quirky.
Apple’s iCloud comes with 5GB of free storage, if you’re using it from a Mac or an iDevice. If you’re using it from Windows, you can get 1GB. For 99 cents per month, iCloud offers 50GB. For $2.99, you get 200GB, and 2TB costs $9.99 per month.
Also: How to enable Messages in iCloud on your iPhone
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, it also, even now, doesn’t support Android.
Perhaps, iCloud most annoying “feature” is the confusion between iCloud and iCloud Drive. They’re not the same thing. For example, Contacts, Notes, Photos, and Reminders get backed up to iCloud, but TextEdit, iMovie, and Mail data lives in iCloud Drive.
In addition, iCloud Drive, in my experience, is prone to be slow and quirky. I’ve had trouble syncing files between my Macs and iDevices. Eventually, I think iCloud Drive will be for Apple users what OneDrive already is for Windows, but it’s still having teething problems. However, as a business solution? It’s not there now, and I doubt it ever will be.
Nextcloud is an ownCloud fork. Both are open-source programs that enable you to set up your own 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 the do-it-yourself way:
Also: Nextcloud 14 rolls out with two major security features
You can use Nextcloud to set up your own cloud storage either on an office server or off 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, it’s hard to beat.
Nextcloud comes in both a free and a business edition, Nextcloud Files. This version offers basic support for up to 50 users for 1,900 Euros a year. The code’s all open source, so if you feel up to the challenge, you can run it all yourself.
How much storage can you get with it? How much do you want? I have a 4TB Nextcloud drive in my office and another terabyte off my co-hosted server rack. There are Nextcloud desktop clients for 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.
Formerly SkyDrive, Microsoft’s OneDrive is what Apple wants iCloud Drive to be when it grows up. Starting with Windows 8, OneDrive is baked into the operating system.
As far as a Windows user is concerned, OneDrive is just another directory in the file explorer. Talk about it easy! 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. Yes, Xbox.
Also: OneDrive tips and tricks: How to master it
OneDrive comes with 5GB of free storage. Office 365 users get an extra terabyte for starting with the $6.99-per-month subscription. If you’re an Office 365 user, this is a no brainer. You can also add 50GB to OneDrive for $1.99 per month. Like Google and Chromebooks, Microsoft also offers free storage if you buy a Microsoft Surface device.
OneDrive’s real selling point is, besides working hand-in-glove with Windows, it also works closely with Microsoft Office programs. With Office 365 you can also collaborate with others in documents and spreadsheets in real time with your partners.
If you want to take OneDrive into your business, Microsoft stands ready to help with OneDrive for Business. This is not a storage plan, per se. But, 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 a user per month with an annual commitment. With any of these packages, you get 1TB of storage per user.
There’s no question who will get the most from OneDrive. It’s anyone who’s wedded to Windows and Microsoft Office. If that’s you, starting using it already. You’ll be glad you did.
What’s the best cloud storage for you?
It depends on what you use and what you want to do with it. All of these services give you more than enough free or cheap service for small business purposes. In short, don’t be distracted by how many free gigabytes of storage you get; it’s not that important.
Personally, I prefer Google Drive and Nextcloud, but then those meet my needs best. For you, it may be a different story. To sum up:
- All-in-one office/cloud/workflow: Box, Google Drive, or Nextcloud
- Apple users: Amazon, Dropbox, or Google Drive (until iCloud Drive matures)
- 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
So, get out there, find a service and start saving and backing up your files to the cloud. It will make your life much easier.
Previous and related coverage:
Why iCloud makes the Apple retail store experience a total mess
Apple’s consumer cloud storage doesn’t just make backing up your device inconvenient. It also makes for a very negative in-store experience.
Dropbox bolsters smart search capabilities with automatic text recognition
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OneDrive tips and tricks: How to master Microsoft’s free cloud storage
If you haven’t checked out OneDrive lately, you’re missing out. Over the past two years, Microsoft has methodically added a raft of new features that can help you back up personal files and photos. In this post, I show you some of the most useful options for saving and sharing files and folders.
Google Drive paid consumer storage plans become Google One
The update, with some cheaper pricing and more perks, makes Google’s consumer storage plans more competitive against options like Dropbox and Microsoft’s OneDrive.
Both Volkswagen and Tesla are preparing cheaper EVs
A new report is going around that claims new, more affordable electric vehicles will be coming to market. According to the report, both Tesla and Volkswagen have given new EV programs the green light to create cars selling for between $25,000 and $30,000. That is a price point that will undoubtedly make transitioning to electric vehicles more affordable for people worldwide.
Pricing is one of the main concerns cited by vehicle shoppers for not choosing electric vehicles compared to a traditional car. Many have been waiting for EVs to reach price parity with similarly equipped traditional vehicles. That parity has been achieved in some parts of the luxury segment making EVs more popular in that part of the market.
Advancements in batteries have helped bring the price of electric vehicles down as the battery pack is one of the most expensive parts of the car. More drivers are interested in EVs as driving ranges have increased significantly in recent years. One barrier that remains in the way is the lack of charging infrastructure in many parts of the world.
Many also cite long charge times as a reason they’ve yet to adopt an electric vehicle. With new electric cars in the $25,000-$30,000 price range, one more barrier of entry will be removed. Tesla announced in September that it was planning a smaller long-range electric car using new battery technology that would start at $25,000. Elon Musk also noted that the vehicle will be fully autonomous and revealed a timeframe of about three years from now. The VW car is dubbed the Small Battery Electric Vehicle.
Volkswagen is aiming at a car about the size of its Polo. Volkswagen has offered no indication of when exactly its vehicle might come to market. Reports indicate that the 2024 through 2025 model range is a good guess for when the vehicles might arrive.
Hyundai and Kia fined $210 million over vehicle recalls due to engine trouble
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced consent orders this week with Hyundai and Kia related to recalls of vehicles equipped with the Theta II engines. The automakers were hit with combined penalties amounting to $210 million. The NHTSA found that Hyundai and Kia conducted untimely recalls of over 1.6 million vehicles that used the Theta II engines.
The NHTSA also found that the automakers reported certain inaccurate information to it during the recalls. The consent orders establish monetary and non-monetary measures that will enhance Kia and Hyundai’s safety practices. Kia will create a new US safety office headed by a Chief Safety Officer. Hyundai will build a US test facility for safety investigations.
Both companies have promised to develop and implement a sophisticated data analytics program to better detect safety concerns. The agreements will also see each company retain an independent, third-party auditor who will directly report to the NHTSA. These auditors will conduct comprehensive reviews of the Safety Act practices and compliance with the consent order.
The NHTSA is also making both companies commit to substantial organizational improvements to enhance their ability to identify and investigate potential safety issues in the US while consistently and transparently communicating with the NHTSA. Hyundai is subject to a total civil penalty of $140 million with a $54 million upfront payment. It’s obligated to spend another $40 million on specified safety performance measures and an additional $46 million deferred penalty that will become payable if specified conditions aren’t satisfied.
Kia is subject to the total civil penalty of $70 million with a $27 million upfront payment. It’s obligated to spend another $16 million on specified safety performance measures with a $27 million deferred penalty payable if certain conditions aren’t satisfied. The consent orders don’t impact other ongoing investigations by the NHTSA regarding allegations of fires not related to crashes in Hyundai and Kia vehicles equipped with the Theta II engines.
The NHTSA is opening an investigation into the Tesla Model S and Model X
The NHTSA announced this week that it was opening a preliminary investigation into potential safety concerns raised by owners of Tesla Model S and Model X cars. The agency has received 53 complaints alleging failures of the left or right front suspension fore links. Of those 43 complaints, 11 incidents occurred while driving.
In its statement issued about the investigation, the NHTSA says that the complaints appear to indicate an increasing trend with 34 complaints received in the last two years, with three of them occurring at highway speeds. The agency intends to assess the scope, frequency, and consequences of the alleged fault.
The investigation will cover Tesla Model S cars ranging from 2015 through 2017 model years and Tesla Model X SUVs made from 2016 through 2017. As these vehicles age, they could be prone to defects that didn’t surface when they were newer. As of now, there has been no official statement from Tesla on the investigation.
There is also no indication that a recall has to be issued at this time. Tesla vehicles have had their share of issues with fire potential from battery damage during accidents. Several fatal accidents have also been blamed on inattentive drivers and Tesla Autopilot driver assistance systems not recognizing hazards in the road.
On Wednesday of this week, Tesla announced that it was issuing a recall on over 9000 Model Y and Model X vehicles due to issues with bolts. The Model X also had an issue where roof trim could detach over time, leading to potential accidents or road hazards. Despite the recalls, Tesla shares are booming, having gained more than 600 percent in 2020 despite the pandemic.
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