These days, it’s not uncommon for one person to use two, three, or even four devices in a day for doing work, accessing the internet, reading, playing games, or whatever else. I am a rather extreme example, but over the course of a typical day, I will generally use my work PC, my Android smartphone, my iPad, and my home PC for any or all of these tasks. If I’m traveling, I may also use my laptop, or occasionally a PC at a hotel business center, a conference center, or some other device that I don’t even own. When writing, I may work on a document at work, then more at home, and then on my iPad while out for dinner. Likewise, I may download an article or case to read on my work PC, then open it on my phone to finish while I’m waiting somewhere else.
While external drives (like flash drives or pocket hard drives) can be used to transfer large files between computers, they do have limitations. They can be easily lost or fail at inopportune times. Moreover, mobile devices rarely allow for easy connection to such devices (most don’t have full-size USB ports, for example). Cloud storage services offer a solution that is generally platform-neutral, and often have basic services available for no cost to you.
I’ve personally tried most of these services, but not all. I will lay out a few caveats about them:
- The services that I don’t indicate as encrypted (generally speaking, the free ones) have potential security issues (though the risk is fairly low overall); avoid putting financial information, client information, etc. on those services.
- Sync speeds can vary, depending on the service, your location, and time of day.
- On your desktop PC, the transfer of files often appears to be part of simply moving files into a folder. The transfer of files does actually use internet bandwidth; if you have a 1 TB cloud storage, and a 300 GB monthly data cap from your internet service provider (typical in the Lubbock area), be very careful when you sync a new device.
And now, the products:
Compatibility: Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Windows Phone, Web
Price: Free (2 GB), $9.99/month (1 TB)
Dropbox is probably the most well-known file service. Its basic app functions as a folder on your hard drive that syncs to the server from your desktop PC or laptop, and can be opened from a web browser or mobile app on any other device. It has relatively easy file sharing, that allows you to share files with collaborators by sharing a link to a file with non-Dropbox users or sharing entire folders with other Dropbox users. Many sites and applications also can link to your Dropbox account and save or transfer files directly to it.
Compatability: Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Blackberry, Web
Price: Free (10 GB), $10/month (100 GB)
Box offers a similar structure to Dropbox, with similar file sharing and features. It is much more developer-friendly, marketed more towards businesses than individuals, but still offers a robust service for individual users. It is available for a more limited array of platforms, but can still be used through a web browser.
Compatability: Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, XBox, Web
Price: Free (5 GB), $1.99/mo (50 GB), $6.99-9.99/mo (1 TB + Office)
OneDrive is tightly integrated into the newest versions of Windows (Win8 and Win10), and is undoubtedly the best deal of the bunch for its paid versions,as the $6.99/mo plan includes a full Office install for a single computer as well as 1 TB of storage and the $9.99/mo plan includes 5 seperate installs, each with their own 1 TB storage. The file sharing is fairly easy, and it is fully integrated into all Microsoft products (such as Office and OneNote).
Texas Tech Students, Faculty and Staff have OneDrive and Office365 service provided from the University. To access, go to www.office.com and sign in using your TTU email address. You will be redirected to the TTU login page, which will take you into your access points to use OneDrive and install applications.
Compatability: Windows, MacOS, iOS, Web
Price: Free (5 GB), $0.99/mo (50 GB), $2.99/mo (200 GB), $9.99/mo (1 TB)
iCloud is the current (and most useful) version of Apple’s cloud storage service. It is tightly integrated into all Apple products, and is an excellent choice if you use Apple products. If you used prior Apple cloud services (like the wretched MobileMe), iCloud is a definite improvement. Its best feature is cloud backup of Apple devices (especially if you get the larger plans), and iTunes media purchases are backed up automatically without counting against your storage limit. Sharing files is not as friendly on iCloud, however, compared to other services. Pricing, however, is excellent at the low end.
Google Drive (http://drive.google.com)
Compatability: Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Web, Linux
Price: Free (15 GB), $1.99/mo (100 GB), $9.99/mo (1 TB)
Google Drive has the hands-down best free version (with 15 GB of storage), and is tightly integrated into Android mobile devices. Indeed, if you use Google web services such as Gmail or Google Docs, you’re already using it. File sharing is extremely easy, and live document collaboration is built-in. The desktop plugins work much like the others, allowing drag-and-drop of files for access on other devices.
SpiderOakONE (https://spideroak.com/solutions/spideroak-one) Encrypted
Compatability: Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux
Price: $7/month (50 GB), $12/month (1 TB)
SpiderOakONE offers no free plan, and is a bit pricey compared to the other cloud services. It also doesn’t feature easy file sharing or collaboration (the upgraded SpiderOak product, Semaphor, offers collaboration tools). SpiderOakONE is primarily a backup tool, but it offers one feature that the others here don’t: full encryption. Files stored on SpiderOakONE are encrypted before being uploaded, so SpiderOak has no way of accessing your data stored on their servers. This makes it more useful for backing up sensitive documents (such as client information or financial information).