Cloud services are all the rage these days. If it’s not cloud storage from Dropbox or iCloud, there’s similar services from Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Box, Amazon, and many, many others, most of which offer a limited amount of online storage for free, with tiered pricing after the entry level amount.
Online storage seems to come in two basic categories for Mac users (but works similarly for iPhone and iPad users). Drag and drop files from the Mac’s Finder into Dropbox or iCloud or whatever.
Or, the method I prefer the most, save files from within an application. That’s the method cloud services hope we’ll use the most because once you get started, it’s easy to stay hooked and then graduate into a monthly subscription fee to keep it going.
Many apps on Mac, iPhone, or iPad have options to use Dropbox and iCloud and I use both (but also use GoogleDrive and Microsoft OneDrive) because they’re now dependable and are integrated into many apps. The perfect example is 1Password which I use to store usernames and passwords for dozens of websites. 1Password syncs well using Dropbox so changes or additions on the Mac show up moments later on the iPhone or iPad.
All is well and good, right? Not quite.
Dropbox gives users only 2GB of free storage before the monthly meter starts running, though the next tier, Dropbox Pro seems competitive at $10 a month for 1TB of online storage. Apple’s iCloud has more tiers, starting at 5GB for free, and moving to 20GB for a $1 per month, up to 1TB at $20 per month.
GoogleDrive starts with 15GB for free, 1TB for $10 a month, and plans above that. By contrast, Yahoo!’s Flickr offers a 1TB photo storage plan for free. Microsoft’s OneDrive is competitive with GoogleDrive at 15GB free, 100GB for $2 a month, and 1TB for $7 a month, but that include a subscription to Office 365.
Unfortunately, GoogleDrive and OneDrive do not have the number of applications available that integrate online storage to their respective plans. That’s where Dropbox and iCloud outshine the competition, though they cost a bit more.
Two years ago synchronizing files between all those online services and my Apple devices was sometimes problematic. Dropbox caused the fewest sync problems (but seems to conflict with OS X frequently; and the updates are annoying; why can’t they update that app automatically?). iCloud was a mess until OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 came along, and now there are fewer problems.
GoogleDrive and OneDrive cause the fewest issues, though both are used less than Dropbox or iCloud, but are used to sync and store more files. There is little doubt that cloud storage is here to stay and it’s now well integrated into our devices and many of our favorite apps. I cannot bring myself to use online cloud storage as a primary storage facility, though. To date, I still enjoy looking down on my hard disk drive backups, knowing my files are probably safer there than with Google or Microsoft.