Which cloud storage service is for you? Sarah Mitroff/CNET Storing your files in the cloud has many advantages. You can view your files from any phone, tablet or computer that's connected to the Internet, and the cloud can also provide backup for files so they'll never disappear if your phone gets lost or your computer crashes. Using the cloud is a no-brainer, but picking which service to use is a bit more difficult. For that reason, I've compiled a guide to the most popular cloud storage services, covering how they work and their strengths and weaknesses.
I've also highlighted some lesser-known options if you want to get away from the mainstream. Editors' note, March 25, 2016: This guide originally include cloud storage service Copy, but we've removed it because it is. Cloud storage comparison. OneDrive Dropbox Google Drive Box Amazon Cloud Drive File size restrictions? 10GB 10GB with website, none with Dropbox apps 5TB 250MB for free plan, 5GB for paid personal plan 2GB. Free storage?
5GB. 2GB 15GB 10GB No.
Can I earn extra free storage? No. Yes No No No Paid plans $2/month for 50GB. $10/month for 1TB $2/month 100GB, $10/month for 1TB $10/month for 100GB $12/year for unlimited photos, $60/year for unlimited files OSes supported Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Phone Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Kindle Fire Windows, Mac, Android, iOS Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Kindle Fire.There is no file size limit with desktop apps.In early 2016, Microsoft will change its free storage from 15GB to 5GB and offer a $2 per month for 50GB paid plan instead of its earlier offerings. It will also no longer let you earn free storage.Amazon Cloud Drive offers limited free storage with an Amazon Prime subscription.
Before we get started, just a note about Apple's iCloud Drive. I didn't include it here because the service is not available for Android and it's really meant to be used within the Apple ecosystem, meaning if you use Mac computers and iOS devices together. If you do use mostly Apple products, it's a solid choice for cloud storage. For a full run-down of its features, pricing and availability, check out. OneDrive's Android app. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET OneDrive First up is OneDrive, Microsoft's storage option. Those who use Windows 8 and 10 have OneDrive built into their operating system, where it shows up in the file explorer next to all of the files on your computer's hard drive.
However, anyone can use it on the Web, by downloading a desktop app for Mac and earlier versions of Windows, or the OneDrive Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Xbox apps. You can store any kind of file in the service, including photos, video and documents, and then access them from any of your Windows PCs or mobile devices. The service organizes your files by type for you, so it's easy to find what you need. The Android, iOS and Windows Phone apps all have automatic photo uploads, meaning that when you shoot a photo with your phone, it's automatically saved to your account. OneDrive's biggest strength is that it works closely with Microsoft Office apps, such as Word or PowerPoint, so when you launch one of those applications you'll see a list of recent documents saved to OneDrive.
If you have an Office 365 subscription and open a document saved in OneDrive, you can collaborate on it in real time with other people. You'll even be able to see the changes they make as they make them. Microsoft is hoping that OneDrive will be the place where you store your photos, and the company is working on technology that will eventually sort all of the photos you take based on how important and meaningful they are. For instance, if you take a photo of your kids, a picture of a special meal and a shot of your parking space so you can find your car later, OneDrive would be able to understand the importance of each picture, save the ones it thinks are the most useful, and trash the rest. That's still big-picture stuff for OneDrive, but it gives you an idea of the direction Microsoft is moving in. In late 2015, Microsoft made an announcement that it would no longer offer unlimited cloud storage to Office 365 subscribers.
Instead, they are limited to 1TB. Additionally, beginning in early 2016, the 100GB and 200GB paid storage plans will be discontinued, replaced with a 50GB for $1.99 per month plan. You will no longer get extra space if you allow the OneDrive apps to automatically backup photos on your phone. Finally, anyone with a Microsoft account will only get 5GB of free storage, instead of 15GB. We will update this guide in 2016 when those changes are made.
Where it excels. Works seamlessly with Windows devices because it's built in to the Windows operating system.
It's easy to open and edit files from OneDrive in Microsoft's other applications, such as Word or Excel. Signing up for OneDrive gets you a Microsoft account, which gives you access to Outlook, Xbox Live, and other Microsoft services. Where it falls flat. OneDrive's automatic file organization doesn't always put files in the correct folders.
Best for: If you have a Windows PC, tablet and phone, and need to get to your files from any device with little effort. Dropbox on Windows. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET Dropbox is a favorite in the cloud storage world because it's reliable, easy to use, and a breeze to set up. Your files live in the cloud and you can get to them at any time from Dropbox's website, desktop applications for Mac, Windows and Linux (Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora or compile your own), or the iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Kindle Fire mobile apps.
You can store any kind of file in Dropbox, by either uploading to the website or adding it with the desktop apps. Those apps live in your file system so that you can easily move files from your computer to the cloud and vice versa by dragging and dropping them into your Dropbox folder. The service automatically and quickly syncs your files across all of your devices, so you can access everything, everywhere. There is no size limit on files you upload to Dropbox with the desktop or mobile apps, but larger files can take several hours to upload, depending on your connection speed.
Dropbox gets a lot of praise for its clean design, and rightfully so. Though I am not a fan of Dropbox's website because the design is very basic and it doesn't give you many options to view and organize your files, its mobile apps and desktop apps are beautiful and easy to navigate. Dropbox gives its users plenty of opportunities to get extra storage to beef up the paltry 2GB you get when you sign up. If you participate in the quick Getting Started tutorial, you get 250MB.
Turn on the automatic photo upload feature on any of the mobile apps to get 3GB of extra space (you can get only 3GB total, not per device). You can earn 500MB for each friend you refer to Dropbox who actually signs up for the service, up to 16GB total, or 32 referrals.
Where it excels. Dropbox works equally well on PCs and Macs, Android and iOS.
The service is so simple and elegantly designed, that it's easy for anyone to master. Its desktop applications seamlessly blend with your computer's file system. Where it falls flat.
Dropbox's website doesn't let you control how your files are displayed. Best for: Simple sharing when you use tons of different kinds of devices. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET Google Drive Google combines a complete set of office tools with cloud storage in Drive. You get a little bit of everything with this service, including a word processor, spreadsheet application, and presentation builder, plus 15GB of free storage space. If you already have a Google account, you can already access Google Drive. You just have to head to and enable the service. You get 15GB of storage for anything you upload to Drive, including photos, videos, documents, Photoshop files and more.
However, you have to share that 15GB with your Gmail account, photos you upload to Google+, and any documents you create in Google Drive. While you can access any of your files from the Drive Web site, you can also download the Drive desktop app for Mac and PC to manage your files from your computer. You can organize all of your files in the desktop app, and they'll sync with the cloud so you can get to them anywhere. Drive is built into Google's Web-based operating system Chromium, so if you have a Chromebook, Google Drive is your best cloud storage option. Like other cloud storage services, Drive has apps for iOS and Android for viewing and managing your files from your phone. Google Drive has the benefit of a built-in office suite, where you can edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, even if you created the document in another program.
The service also a large collection of extras, such as third-party apps that can send faxes or sign documents. Google also recently introduced, an online photo locker, where you can organize photos into albums. Google Photos is built into Drive in a separate tab, but you're really better off going straight to googlephotos.com to see and organize photos. However, you don't need to download the Google Photos app on your phone or tablet to back pictures you take there. The Google Drive app can take care of that. What I like most about Google Drive is that you can drag and drop files into the Drive Web site and they'll be uploaded automatically. You can also preview attachments from Gmail in Google Drive, and save those files to your cloud.
Where it excels. Google Drive requires very little setup if you already have a Google account.
If you use Gmail, it's easy to save attachments from your e-mail directly to Drive with just a few clicks. The app can automatically back up your photos on its own, without the need for the separate Google Photos app. Where it falls flat. If you use Google Drive's tools to create documents, spreadsheets or presentations, you must export those files to edit them in another program. You have to share your storage space with Gmail, so if you're inbox is overflowing, you'll get less cloud storage space.
Best for: Google diehards, or anyone who wants a few office tools with their cloud storage. Box on Android.
Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET Box Anyone can sign up for a free individual account on, but the service's endless list of sharing and privacy features were built specifically for business and IT users. Beyond the basic cloud storage setup, where you can store just about any kind of file, Box lets you share files with colleagues, assign tasks, leave comments on someone's work, and get notifications when a file changes. You can preview files from Box's website and even create basic text documents in Box. Like other cloud storage services, you can download a desktop app and sync your files between your hard drive and the cloud. Box also gives you a lot of control over the privacy of your files. For example, you can decide who in your business can view and open specific folders and files, as well as who can edit and upload documents.
You can even password-protect individual files and set expiration dates for shared folders. Business users can also connect other apps, such as Salesforce and NetSuite, so that you can easily save documents to Box. There are also plug-ins for Microsoft Office and Adobe Lightroom that let you open and edit files saved to Box from those applications. Where it excels. Box comes with tons of tools for businesses, including collaboration and file privacy control.
Where it falls flat. The service's endless list of sharing and privacy features can be lost on someone who's just using the service for personal storage. Because of all those features, it can feel overwhelming to navigate the Box website if you're only trying to manage a few files and folders. Best for: Teams of employees working together on projects, and large companies that need a place to securely share documents with everyone. Amazon Cloud Drive's website. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET Amazon Cloud Drive Amazon already sells you nearly anything under the sun, and it wants to be the place you store all of your music, photos, videos and other files too.
Amazon Cloud Drive has been around for a few years, but the company introduced; one just for photos and one for all other kinds of files. Neither plan is free, but both have three-month trials. Unlimited Photos is available for free for all Amazon Prime members or anyone with a Fire device. If you don't have a Prime subscription or a Fire phone or tablet, you'll need to pay $12 per month for the storage. True to its name, Unlimited Photos gets you unlimited storage for your photos (GIF, JPEG, BMP, TIFF and so on) and 5GB of free storage for other file types, including videos, PDFs and documents.
Unlimited Everything gets you storage for an unlimited number of files of any type, for $60 per year. There is no limit for how many files you can upload, but each file needs to be under 2GB unless you use the Cloud Drive desktop apps. The Cloud Drive desktop apps are available for PC and Mac, and let you upload or download files. However, unlike other cloud storage services, the Amazon Cloud Drive app doesn't let you view your files from a folder on your computer. You can upload individual files and download your entire library, but if you want to view them or make changes, you'll need to go to Amazon's website.
Amazon Cloud Drive has apps for iOS and with automatic upload so videos and photos you take with your phone get saved to the cloud right after you shoot them. The service is also baked into Amazon's Fire tablets and phone. Where it excels. If you already have an Amazon account, you don't need to sign up for a new service, you can simply sign into Cloud Drive. Where it falls flat. The desktop app doesn't work with your file system, you can only use it upload or download files.
You can only view and manage files from the Cloud Drive website, but you cannot upload files larger than 2GB there. Best for: Anyone with an Amazon Fire tablet or Fire phone, because it's part of the operating system. Unlimited Photos is good for Amazon Prime members, because you get it for free as part of that subscription. Extra cloud options Of course, OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive and Box aren't your only options for cloud storage. One is, a Dropbox-like alternative with apps for every mobile platform. The catch is that after your 90-day free trial, where you can play around with 5GB of storage, you need to pay at $7.50 per month for 60GB to keep using the service (you can upgrade to more storage for extra money). There's also, which has an entirely different take on cloud storage.
For $200, you buy a 2-terabyte (TB) hard drive from the company. You get to use 1TB of the drive's space to store any and all of your files as a local backup. Your files also get encrypted and broken into bits that are sent to other Space Monkey users' hard drives, so that you can access your files from another computer or mobile device. That's where that extra 1TB of space on your drive comes in - it's used to store bits of other people's files. The service is free for the first year, then costs $49 per year to keep storing your files in the cloud.
Table of Contents. When productivity is the goal, few cloud storage solutions match Google Drive. Backed by Google Docs and a big-and-growing-bigger library of third-party apps, Google Drive provides a collaboration playground that will get the creative juices flowing. Add 15GB of free storage, and Google Drive’s close ties to Gmail and Android, and we get why Google Drive looms over the cloud storage market with over registrees.
There are and certainly better security to be found, which is why we don’t slot Google Drive atop our rankings. However, we still wondered whether there is a better cloud storage solution for getting things done. There are a few contenders, including Google Drive’s in Dropbox and OneDrive. In this article, we’re going to focus on a third, lesser-known option: Box, a cloud storage solution known for its business plans and supporting multi-member collaborations. Box doesn’t have the numbers that Google Drive has. The company behind it focuses its marketing efforts on appealing to the suit-and-tie crowd with little interest in home consumers, as evidenced by an individual plan that costs over $11 per month for an underwhelming 100GB of storage.
For business use, we rank Box high on the list of providers, thanks to its unlimited storage plans and practical user management features. It’s more suited than Dropbox for enterprise use, in fact, not to mention Google Drive.
Box Drive For Mac Review
The goal of this article is to compare the productivity features of Google Drive and Box. Though the needs of independent freelancers vary wildly from, say, we’ll try to take a broad view, so that you pick the one that best matches your work needs. The time has come for Google Drive versus Box. Save your nerd rage for the end. Google Drive vs Box: Our Methodology There are different approaches to evaluating cloud storage. We could dive deep into support and security, both of which are crucial considerations you should take into account before signing up for a service, but we’re going to nix some of the usual subjects to focus on productivity. We’re not even going to talk cost, aside from some casual mentions.
We broke our analysis into five rounds: office suites, note-taking apps, third-party apps, file synchronization and collaboration. After reading this article, we have a full, in addition to a, that you can read for more information.
Let’s get down to business. Office Suites Here at Cloudwards.net, our favorite thing about Google Drive is Google Docs, one of the two or three best cloud-based office suites available. We’d argue that it wouldn’t be worth using otherwise, mostly on account of Alphabet Inc.’s thirst for user data and consequently lax approach to security.
There are ways to protect yourself from Google’s pointy-toothed marketeers, including using a private-encryption service such as to scramble your files. However, any files encrypted end-to-end using a tool such as Boxcryptor can’t be opened, or even previewed, using Google Docs. The name Google Docs refers to both the suite itself and the suite’s word processor. Momentary discombobulation aside, the suite rivals Office Online in terms of ease of use and features.
Like Microsoft’s cloud office suite, it’s completely free. One of the best things about Docs is how well it lends itself to collaborations. By sharing file access with others, you can invite them to leave comments, make edits or leave editing suggestions. Aside from Google Docs the word processor, other apps included in the suite include Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Forms and Google Drawings. Google Sheets provides a spreadsheet environment with all the features you’d expect, such as sheets, charts, filters and functions. For presentations, use Google Slides, while Google Forms can be used to create polls, quizzes, job applications and other forms. Google Forms has several pre-made themes to help, such as templates for RSVPs, customer feedback, contact information and event invites.
Google Drawings can be used to create flowcharts, website blueprints, concept maps and other diagrams. While underwhelming compared to LucidChart or Microsoft Visio, neither of those programs are free. With its native, well-designed office suite, Google has an advantage that no cloud storage providers outside of Microsoft and Apple can match. In lieu of creating their own office apps, many cloud storage solutions simply integrate those made by others.
Box not only takes that approach, it goes further than most by partnering with Microsoft and Google to offer tools from the office suites of both. From the Box web interface, you can create new Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint files, in addition to Google Docs and Sheets files. Box can also be used to preview and edit files created in Google Drive and OneDrive and moved to the Box cloud (perhaps using a tool). Box has apps for Docs and Office integrated into its web tool, but the edits for Docs are actually made on Google’s cloud network, then saved to Box, meaning you’ll need to set up a Google account. The features are the same, whether you use Box, or use OneDrive or Google Drive directly. Access to both suites is free. One of the big benefits of using Box, from a productivity standpoint, comes from the fact that some people are Google Docs converts, while others are Microsoft Office diehards.
With Box, you can work with both, delivering content in either format. Box doesn’t get you access to Google Slides, Forms or Drawings.
Google also has an Office 365 plugin that can save files to, and access files stored in, your Google Drive account. Additionally, Google Drive has an Office Compatibility Mode setting that can be used to edit Microsoft files using Google Docs. When it comes to office tools, Google Drive and Box excel. We’re giving round one to Box because you don’t have to leave the Box interface to create and edit Google and Microsoft files, but the victory is slim. Note-Taking Apps Cloud notebooks are to creativity what room-temperature beef is to E.
We’ve previously published a guide to the available and, while Evernote might be our favorite, Google and Box have entries that made the list in Google Keep and Box Notes. Technically, Google Keep isn’t a part of the Google Drive ecosystem. Keep doesn’t consume Google Drive storage — which is a good thing — and you can’t launch it from the Google Drive interface. That said, we’re going to consider it here on the basis that it does integrate with Google Docs. Google Keep works best for quick memos-to-self and task lists. While you can access Keep using your browser, it’s the smartphone app for Android and iOS that most people will find useful.
Key features include voice recording, voice-to-text conversion, checklists and alarm-clock reminders. It’s the perfect companion for creative minds who are constantly churning out ideas but have no place to put them, such as while stuck in the middle of a morning traffic jam or lying awake in the middle of the night. Notes created using Google Keep have a limit of 20,000 characters, which is about 4,000 words, and there’s no option to create organizational notebooks, so we don’t recommend Google Keep for detailed research. You can create unlimited notes, though, without ever worrying about storage space.
Notes made with Box Notes aren’t restricted by a similarly small character limit — the cap is 500,000 characters and 200 pages. However, without organizing features such as notebooks and note tagging, we can’t recommend Box’s tool for detailed research projects, either. Like Google Keep, Box Notes doesn’t provide much for text-formatting options. Box Notes does work well for taking memos and meeting notes and sharing those creations with others. Up to 20 people can edit the same note simultaneously and Box Notes creates new versions every 30 seconds, in case you need to roll back unwanted changes. Box Business users can also track, view, edit and delete notes. Those features align well with the idea of Box as a cloud storage tool best suited to workplace productivity.
Although Box Notes has some value, we’re giving round two to Google, thanks to Keep’s voice-recording and list features, along with its excellent mobile experience. Third-Party Apps Round three will focus on third-party app integrations other than Microsoft Office. Third-party apps is an area where Google has excelled, thanks, in part, to a more-or-less free-for-all attitude toward its API and outside innovation. Aside from Google Docs and one of the available, Google’s third-party app library might be the best thing about it.
True, many of the hundreds of apps available in that library are, to put it eloquently, total junk, thanks to that same open-development attitude, but there are many useful apps to be found. Access the app library by clicking “new” on the top-left side of Google Drive, then “more” and “connect more apps.” Use the search field to find apps or browse by category. Once you find what you want, integrating it with Google Drive only requires clicking a “connect” button.
App categories include productivity, social and education, among others. Under these categories, you’ll find.pdf editors, text editors, image editors, diagram creators, workflow tools, file-type converters, chat tools, fax tools, tools for creating.gifs — you get the idea. Some of our favorites include:.
DocHub:.pdf editor. Lumin PDF:.pdf editor.
Pixlr Editor: image editor. GeoGebra: math tool for graphing, geometry, etc. WeVideo: video editor. PicMonkey: photo editor It’s a toolbox mostly without rival among cloud storage services, with only two coming close: Egnyte Connect and Box. To find and connect apps through the Box interface, click the “apps” link in your user profile menu to open the application library.
You can find specific apps using the search field or peruse the options by categories, such as annotation, collaboration, editing and security. Depending on your needs, one possible advantage of Box over Google Drive is that it has many more apps designed for business use. Options include.pdf editors, call-recording software, Agile-Scrum management apps, billing software and task trackers. There are far too many apps to name them all, but here are a few notables:. Adobe Acrobat:.pdf editor. 1st Call Record: capture phone calls.
Agilewords: review and approve documents. AppCooker: project management for app development. BigMind Pro: collect ideas and brainstorm. DocuSign: collect signatures Choosing between Google Drive and Box, when it comes to third-party apps, will depend on which apps you need and what you do for work. As a general rule of thumb — emphasis on general — Google’s app library better suits freelancers and students, while Box’s library works best for the white-collar set. We’re siding with Google, because we think more people will find value in its app collection, but feel free to disagree vociferously. We suggest setting up free accounts with both services to check the options out for yourself.
Should you find that both Google Drive and Box have apps you like, you can manage them together using a multi-cloud management tool such as Otixo (read our ). File Synchronization Most cloud storage tools let you synchronize files across devices. By serving as the middleman between endpoints, you can edit a file on one device and see those edits reflected on another shortly after. Ideally, “shortly” means near real-time, but some cloud storage services sync faster than others. Google Drive and Box follow the familiar sync-folder model perfected by Dropbox: install a desktop client and a cloud-connected folder will be created in your file system. Any files or folders placed within that folder get sent to the cloud, then distributed to any other device with a sync client connected to your storage account.
Neither Google Drive nor Box throttle sync speeds. Uploads and downloads should depend on the quality of your internet connection. However, in tests conducted for our reviews, Google Drive consistently performed faster file uploads, while downloads for the two services were about the same. Time to upload 1GB test folder (in minutes) Average Upload: Average Download: Google Drive: 10:47 4:55 Box Business: 16:00 5:10 Box can’t handle files larger than 5GB, either, and that’s only if you’re a business or enterprise subscriber.
Cheaper subscriptions have a 2GB cap and Box’s free plan is restricted to 250MB. Google Drive lets you upload and sync files of up to 5TB. Google Drive does have a 750GB per day sync limit, after which you’ll be blocked from uploading more files until the next day (if you have a file larger than 750GB, it’ll complete the upload before cutting off). In order to use cloud storage to free hard drive space, you have to be able to turn sync off, since it’s a mechanism that relies on storing files in the cloud and on your computer drive.
Google Drive and Box have a selective sync feature that lets you do just that. Both services let you set upload and download bandwidth limits. Setting limits will slow synchronization down, but will also spare computer resources for other tasks, like watching videos on the. Overall, both cloud storage services do an acceptable job syncing files, though neither tops our list for. We’re giving the nod to Google for supporting larger file sizes and performing better on file uploads. Collaboration Cloud storage’s potential to drive collaborative efforts is something that Google Drive and Box capitalize on as well as any other provider, with the exception of Egnyte Connect, a service that incorporates some handy task management features (read our ). Central to collaborating with either Google Drive or Box are file and folder sharing, a feature that relies on the creation of web links that others can use to access your content.
We have a separate article on the that touches on some of the security features we want to see to lock down these links, since creating URLs to access files can be risky business. Google whiffs on most of them; Box does not. Sharing content from Google Drive is easy: right-click on the folder or file and click “share.” When sharing content, you can invite others by email address or create a shareable link that can be posted on a social media account, Slack channel or elsewhere. Google Drive links can be restricted with permissions, with options for view-only, editing and commenting. We like the permission settings but we’d like to see password protection and expiry dates added to help keep those links away from unwanted eyes.
Box lets you share using email invites or links, too, but with more settings to ensure link security than Google Drive. Options include password protection, automatic link expiration and a checkbox that prevents content downloading. For business plan subscribers, Box includes a “groups” feature that will let you apply folder access permissions to multiple people at once, such as for an editing or graphic design department. Box Business has many more user management features to help with collaborations. These include letting peers sync files to their desktops and preventing them from collaborating with non-group members. When adding folder permissions with Box Business, there are many more choices than what you’ll find with Google Drive. Options include:.
Co-owner: Can do anything including all admin tasks. Editor: Can do everything except restrict invitations. Viewer Uploader: Basic user with upload capabilities. Previewer Uploader: Limited user with upload capabilities.
Viewer: Basic user without upload capabilities. Previewer: Limited user without upload capabilities. Uploader: Can upload content and create subfolders Those perks aren’t available for Box Personal users, but for those looking for cloud storage built for multi-user collaborations in a business setting, Box easily trumps Google Drive. Final Verdict The final tabulation is in, and it adds up to three rounds for Google Drive and two for Box. While we like that Box supports both Google Docs and Office Online, and think it has better file-sharing features, Google Drive has a more useful note-taking app, a more interesting collection of third-party integrations and syncs files more smoothly than Box. We think the final split of rounds rings true: more people will find that Google Drive facilitates their productivity goals than Box. The gap isn’t as wide as you might expect, though, and for businesses juggling a large workforce, we’d contend that Box Business provides more value.
Are you a Google Drive fan or do you prefer Box for getting things done? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading.