One of the most dynamic aspects of information technology today is the “cloud,” which is a shorthand term for remote computing. You can use the cloud for anything from finessing a spreadsheet while on the road using multiple devices to collaborating on a report with multiple people all over the world.
One of the most important and popular uses of the cloud is remote storage, including backup. Recently a big player in this space, Amazon, made some changes that illustrate its dynamic nature. More changes from others are undoubtedly on the way.
Amazon Cloud Drive just eliminated the option of free storage. In an email Amazon sent to users, it said it was replacing its free 5 gigabyte plan with two other options. With one, you get unlimited photos at $12 per year, with 5 gigabytes for other files, including videos. With the other, you get unlimited storage of any files at $60 per year.
Despite Amazon’s dominance of the ecommerce market, Amazon Cloud Drive was never among the best or most popular of the top three options in the personal cloud storage market. The new Amazon Unlimited Everything plan, however, is good deal if you need truly unlimited cloud storage. On the downside, unlike some other cloud solutions, Amazon Cloud Drive lacks a downloadable client, which means transferring files can be less convenient.
Other cloud storage providers still offer a free option.
The current top dog in the free storage market in terms of sheer capacity is little-known Mega, which offers 50 free gigabytes.
Regarding pay options, there are also significant differences among the top providers.
Dropbox charges $120 per year for 1 terabyte of storage, which is virtually unlimited for most users. For businesses, Dropbox costs $180 per user per year for unlimited storage.
Google Drive charges $24 per year for 100 gigabytes and $120 per year for 1 terabyte, with business plans offering unlimited storage available for organizations having more than five users.
OneDrive charges $24 per year for 100 gigabytes, $48 per year for 200 gigabytes, and $84 per year for 1 terabyte.
iCloud charges $12 per year for 20 gigabytes, $48 per year for 200 gigabytes, $120 per year for 500 gigabytes, and $240 per year for 1 terabyte.
Along with their pricing options, the top cloud storage providers also distinguish themselves with extras.
Amazon Cloud Drive has the fewest extras of the top five, but with Amazon’s MP3 app you can stream music to your Android or iOS device.
Dropbox isn’t affiliated with a specific computing platform, unlike some other cloud storage options. It thus supports a large number of devices, whether they run on Windows, Windows Phone, OS X, iOS, Linux, Android, BlackBerry, or Fire OS.
Google Drive offers convenient and easy-to-use collaboration tools.
OneDrive’s 1 terabyte plan includes a subscription to Office 365 for one PC or Mac and 60 minutes per month of free Skype calls to landline and mobile phones. You can’t get better Office-compatibility than with Microsoft Office.
iCloud makes it easy to share iTunes, iBooks, and App Store purchases along with photos and calendars with other users of Apple devices and computers.
Choosing the best cloud storage plan for you can also depend on which devices you use and how you use them.
Google Drive is tightly integrated with Google Docs. If you’re a Google Docs user, Google Drive makes the most sense. It’s also a convenient way to collaborate with others at different locations.
OneDrive integrates well with Microsoft Office as well as with Windows 8 and the forthcoming Windows 10. If you’re a heavy Office user, OneDrive can be the way to go.
If you’re Apple based, iCloud is your best cloud storage option.
Going with brand-name cloud storage from a solid company, at least as your primary cloud option, is more important than in many other areas. You don’t want to take the chance of your files going away if a particular provider goes belly up.
With Amazon Cloud Drive, despite the ending of its free option, users can still access their files even if they can’t upload more files without ponying up.