Cloud Storage Battle Royale
OneDrive vs. Google Drive vs. iCloud vs. Dropbox
I'm exploring some of the most popular cloud storage solutions to help you decide which one is the best for you. No bag check, bruised elbows, or boarding pass is required!
Not too long ago, if someone had told me it was possible to access all of my files from any device, anywhere in the world, I would have thought they were crazy. After all, I still vividly remember when cassette tapes and VHS players were a normal part of life. Amazingly enough, cloud storage not only makes remote file access possible, but it is also extremely popular and easy to use. In fact, the most difficult part about cloud storage is really just figuring out which service (or services) you want to use. Since this is something I often recommend to my Color My Life customers, I figured it might be helpful to explain what it is and provide a basic comparison of some of the most popular services.
So, What Is Cloud Storage?
Cloud storage is a system that allows you to connect with a cloud storage provider to store your data on the Internet, or in the cloud, instead of locally on your computer, phone, or tablet. You start by signing up and connecting with the storage provider. Then you can upload your file, which sends a copy to the provider’s data servers, wherever they are located. The servers store the file until you remove it as long as you continue to use their service. During that time, you can utilize almost any Internet-enabled device to remotely download and access a copy of your file, meaning that no matter where you are in the world, your file is essentially at your fingertips.
Okay, so it’s a bit more complicated than that, but you get the gist. I am fully prepared to deliver a 10,000 word essay on cloud storage, but I doubt either of us really wants that.
Benefits & Concerns About Using Cloud Storage
Cloud storage sounds scary to some because, in all honesty, it can be. It’s a little daunting to think about your files, which may contain sensitive information, living somewhere out there on servers that you have no direct control of or access to. It’s not uncommon to hear about data breaches or hackers gaining access to valuable information and releasing it to the public. A Google search for ‘leaked nudes’ will tell you all you need to know about that, though I might suggest refraining from that particular search.
However, cloud storage is actually pretty safe, especially if you stick with a reputable service provider like Google, Microsoft, Apple, or Dropbox. These companies spend considerable time and resources on ensuring that their services follow the best security and privacy protocols, thus reducing the risk of your files falling into the wrong hands.
If all this sounds a little too scary, that’s okay. But before you click away, it’s worth mentioning some of the benefits and how they far outweigh the risks, at least to most people. While there are a ton of benefits that I could mention, I’ll just stick with the three that really convinced me it was worth it.
Access & Modify Files From Almost Any Device
You can use multiple devices to access and modify your files. As I said before, cloud storage allows you almost immediate access to your files from multiple devices, no matter where you are (as long as you have access to the Internet). That means you could create a file on your computer, access it on your phone, make changes on your tablet, then send it to your work computer for further review or editing.
You Won’t Have To Sell A Kidney
Cloud storage is unbelievably affordable. In fact, all of the cloud storage providers that I’m about to discuss have some sort of free version that you can use. But of these, even most of the premium or paid plans aren’t too expensive.
Avoid Outdated Files & Awkward Moments
Cloud storage helps prevent that awkward moment when you go to open a file and realize the latest version is saved on a different device. But, of course, you are stuck with the version that is weeks (and dozens of revisions) out of date. Instead of having separate file versions on multiple devices, you can transfer a single file between devices. Now it is always up to date!
The Most Popular Cloud Storage Services
Once you decide you are ready to start using a cloud storage service, the next step is to decide which one is right for you. In truth, you really can’t go wrong with any of the four giants – Google Drive, Apple iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, or Dropbox. However, they are each a little different and have their own advantages and disadvantages. Some work best on certain platforms or for a particular subset of users, while others are extremely platform independent and great for everyone.
Please note: pricing for these services is shown in US Dollars (USD) and will likely change over time. I will try my best to come back and update this page whenever I am made aware of any changes, but I cannot make any guarantees.
Google Drive (Personal)
Free plan: 15 GB
Paid plans: From $1.99/month for 100 GB up to $299.99/month for 30 TB
Best suited for: Google / Android users; everyone
If you have a Google account or gmail email address, you already have access to the free 15 GB storage plan. You might have even used it without realizing it, especially if you have ever used Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides.
Google Drive is really easy to get started with. It lets you use your favorite Internet browser to upload and download your files. That means you can use it on a computer even if you don’t have the ability to download a separate application. There is also a mobile app for Android and iPhone, which provides even faster access on your mobile device.
To access the Google Drive service, go to drive.google.com and log in with your Google account. If you haven’t already, you can sign up for a free account to access all of their apps.
Free plan: 5 GB
Paid plans: From $0.99/month for 50 GB up to $9.99/month for 2 TB
Best suited for: Mac / Apple / iPhone users
All Apple users are automatically registered for the free iCloud service, which comes with 5 GB of storage. However, you can also register for iCloud without owning any Apple devices, though I am not sure it’s the best solution for you in that case as you will have much more limited access to your files. Access your files using any of the built-in Files apps on your Apple devices, or by visiting icloud.apple.com in your Internet browser.
You will likely want to upgrade to a paid storage plan if you are serious about using this service. Because you can use iCloud to store backups for your Apple devices, the free storage space fills quickly. It may even exceed it if you have more than one Apple device. Unfortunately, I learned this from experience.
Microsoft OneDrive (Personal)
Free plan: 5 GB
Paid plans: From $1.99/month for 100 GB up to $99.99/year for up to 6 TB (1 TB per user)
Best suited for: Microsoft / Windows users; everyone
Microsoft OneDrive is the go-to solution for Windows users. That’s because newer versions of Windows sync with OneDrive as long as you sign in with your Microsoft account, which you likely already have if you use Microsoft Office 365, have a hotmail, outlook, or live.com email address, or use Skype or Xbox Live.
Best of all, if you subscribe to Office 365 (Home or Personal), you already have a premium subscription to OneDrive. With the $69.99/year Personal plan, you’ll get 1 TB of storage, and with the Home plan you’ll get 1 TB of storage for each of the accounts you have connected (up to 6 total). For $99.99/year, that’s almost impossible to beat.
As a free or paid subscriber, you will be able to access your storage using the OneDrive apps (available on Windows, Mac, and most devices), or by visiting onedrive.live.com in your browser.
Free plan: 2 GB on up to 3 devices
Paid plans: $9.99/month for 2 TB or $16.58/month for 3 TB
Best suited for: everyone
Dropbox is one of most popular cloud storage providers, despite not being owned by one of the tech industry giants like Microsoft, Google, or Apple. This is because it has always been an affordable solution, and the developers have made it as user-friendly and platform-independent as possible.
You can sign up for a free or premium subscription at dropbox.com. If you only need a few GB of cloud storage and have just a few devices, the free plan will work well. However, if you want to link more then 3 devices or need more than 2 GB storage, the paid plans are a better bet. With a paid plan, you will be able to sync with as many devices as you want as well as access premium features like priority support and offline files.
Free Cloud Storage
If you have an Apple device, use iCloud to backup your device or sync your photos between Apple devices. Then use Google Drive for file management. If you don’t have an Apple device, skip iCloud and just use Google Drive. Better yet, if you have multiple Google accounts – I can’t be the only person with 90 email addresses – use more than one! Just make sure to keep your files organized in some sort of logical manner so you know where to look.
Most Affordable Cloud Storage
With a paid Google Drive or OneDrive plan, you can get 100 GB of storage for $1.99. That is plenty of space at an affordable price, especially if you are mostly just interested in being able to back up a few photos or sync documents between devices. You probably can’t fit your entire digital movie or music collection on here, but that’s not to say you couldn’t start at this level and upgrade later if needed. Apple lovers, especially those with more than one Apple device, should consider either the $0.99/month paid subscription or spend $2 more for 4 times the storage space. This lets you back up your devices and still have a bit of space for file storage.
Most Shareable Cloud Storage
Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive all allow you to easily share your files with others. However, if this is an important feature for you, Dropbox is arguably the best at it. You can easily share individual files or entire folders and will have more control over allowing others to edit or download your files.
Biggest Bang For Your Buck
At $99.99/year for up to 6 TB of storage, Microsoft OneDrive clearly takes the cake. The downside to this is that each connected account is limited to 1 TB, so you will need to connect 6 accounts to take full advantage of the storage provided.
Do you use these or any other cloud storage providers? Let me know in the comments! And if you want to see more technology, art, and lifestyle posts like this, subscribe below to get updates right in your inbox whenever I make a new post. ❤