Cloud Storage

The velocity of data is increasing and will always increase. This is a fact of modern life. According to IBM, we create approximately 1.86EB of data every hour of every day. So it is no wonder that annual cloud storage revenue exceeds $60 billion and is trending up and to the right.

There are dozens of companies offering free or close-to-free storage solutions for consumers. Here’s an overview of seven excellent cloud storage choices – at least one of them will certainly fit your needs. Importantly, while each of these organizations offers enterprise solutions that accommodate industrial-strength needs, this list compares services suitable for individuals and small businesses.

1. Microsoft oneDrive

If you’re spending your day-to-day in Microsoft Office, coupling oneDrive with Office 365 makes a lot of sense. Paying for 1TB of storage on oneDrive is only $10/year more than Amazon, and you get the entire Office 365 suite to go with it. A small (but nice) oneDrive feature is Document Scanning, which lets you scan and store receipts, business cards, or whatever else you want to keep via a mobile app.

  • Free Storage: 5GB
  • Individual File Size Limit: 10GB
  • Paid Tiers:
    • $1.99/month for 50GB
    • $69.99/year (or $6.99/month) for 1TB of storage plus Office 365 for 1 computer
    • $99.99/year (or $9.99/month) for 5TB of storage plus Office 365 for 5 computers

2. Amazon Drive

Amazon Prime nets you a lot of “free” perks (after you pay your annual membership), but it doesn’t include much in the way of cloud storage. Aside from the 5GB of free cloud storage that everyone gets, Amazon Drive’s main benefit is that Prime members get unlimited free photo storage. Amazon offers storage apps for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android, and while 5GB isn’t a ton of storage, Amazon’s paid tiers are competitively priced if you need to free up space on your phone or laptop.

  • Free Storage: 5GB plus unlimited free photo storage (Prime members only)
  • Individual File Size Limit: 48.82GB (uploads of 2GB+ require desktop app upload)
  • Paid Tiers:
    • $11.99/year for 100GB
    • $59.99/TB/year

3. Google Drive/Google One

Google Drive makes saving, sharing, and collaborating on Google Apps (Docs, Sheets, etc.) easy, while offering traditional cloud storage for all your other files, too. Google gives you 15GB of storage for free, which is shared across all Google apps you use (like Gmail). Like oneDrive, Google Drive has a document scanner (Android only) that automatically saves scanned documents as PDFs. Google recently swapped Google Drive plans for a new program called Google One, which allows you to share your cloud storage with up to five family members or friends. Google One also offers access to Google experts (for troubleshooting) as well as “extra benefits from other Google products, like Google Play credits, special hotel pricing, and more.”

  • Free Storage: 15GB
  • Individual File Size Limit: 5TB
  • Paid Tiers:
    • $1.99/month for 100GB
    • $2.99/month for 200GB

4. Dropbox

Dropbox’s free storage (2GB) is stingy, but Dropbox has a few tricks up its sleeve. It can automatically upload images from your smartphone or camera, and keeping files up-to-date across multiple computers is a breeze, even on the free plan. If you spring for the Professional plan (the $19.99/month or $199/year option), that plan offers access to Smart Sync (which lets you access all of your Dropbox files from any connected device) and full text search (which lets you search the text content of all of your files, including documents you scan with the mobile Dropbox app). One other nice feature for paid Dropbox users is remote device wipe. Lose your phone? Purge your Dropbox data from it with a few clicks.

  • Free Storage: 2GB
  • Individual File Size Limit: none
  • Paid Tiers:
    • $9.99/month (or $99/year) for 1TB
    • $19.99/month (or $199/year) for 2TB

5. Box

Outside of Google, the 10GB of free storage Box offers is top of its class. Its paid level, however, is one of the more expensive options, and it doesn’t come with a lot of pizzazz. While Box offers multiple plans for businesses and teams, none of its features are unique to the platform. If you have a vendetta against Google, Box’s free plan is worth a shot. Otherwise, there’s nothing to see here.

  • Free Storage: 10GB (with a 250MB file upload limit)
  • Individual File Size Limit: 5GB
  • Paid Tiers:
    • $10/month for 100GB (with a 5GB file upload limit)

6. Apple iCloud

Aside from oneDrive (where comparisons are tricky because oneDrive’s paid plans also include Office 365 access), no other provider comes close to the bang for your buck that Apple’s iCloud storage offers. Like Google Drive, Apple’s paid iCloud plans let you share your iCloud storage with family or friends. While Apple’s OS updates have made iCloud (and all of its other apps) less intuitive to use over the years, anyone rocking a MacBook and iPhone will at least want to give iCloud a second look. Pro tip: the 50GB plan ($0.99/month) is a no-brainer option for anyone with an iPhone; if you enable auto-backup, then each night when you charge your phone, Apple will replace the backup with an updated copy. This makes upgrading or swapping to a new iPhone a snap. Of note: there’s no Android app for iCloud.

  • Free Storage: 5GB
  • Individual File Size Limit: 15GB
  • Paid Tiers:
    • $0.99/month for 50GB
    • $2.99/month for 200GB
    • $9.99/month for 2TB

7. SpiderOak One

SpiderOak is a lesser-known (and more expensive) cloud storage option, but its apps (which are available for Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android) offer end-to-end encryption (for boosted security) and point in time recovery (to help you restore to a previous backup in the event of malware or ransomware).

  • Free Storage: none
  • Individual File Size Limit: none
  • Paid Tiers:
    • $5/month (or $59/year) for 150GB
    • $9/month (or $99/year) for 400GB
    • $12/month (or $129/year) for 2TB
    • $25/month (or $279/year) for 5TB

Which Is Right for You?

Picking the right cloud storage provider comes down to what you’re looking for.

  • Want the most bang for your OS X/iOS buck? Go with iCloud.
  • Want the most free storage (or are invested in Google Apps)? Go with Google Drive.
  • Want the most free storage (But you hate Google)? Go with Box.
  • Looking for a suite of tools and cloud storage? Go with oneDrive.
  • Want to avoid file size limits? Go with Dropbox.
  • Want to primarily use cloud storage for photos? Go with Amazon Drive.
  • Want to rest easy with some of the most secure cloud storage? Go with SpiderOak.

Ultimately, you need to decide which plan or plans make the most sense for how you work. I use a combination of Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon, and iCloud, because each fills a particular need. The good news is that just about all of these options offer a free version that you can try before you add another line to your monthly expenditures.

Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

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About Shelly Palmer

Named LinkedIn’s #1 Voice in Technology for 2017, Shelly Palmer is CEO of The Palmer Group, a strategic advisory, technology solutions and business development practice focused at the nexus of media and marketing with a special emphasis on machine learning and data-driven decision-making. He is Fox 5 New York's on-air tech and digital media expert, writes a weekly column for AdAge, and is a regular commentator on CNBC and CNN. Follow @shellypalmer or visit shellypalmer.com or subscribe to our daily email http://ow.ly/WsHcb

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"Cloud Wars: The Battle for Your Cloud Storage Dollars" by @ShellyPalmer

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