Back in 2006 when I started working, flash drives/thumb drives were the poo. They are still great; small and lots of storage available, and you can get them in really cool colors and…shapes? The racecar’s amazing!
Anyway, whenever I needed to switch computers, I had to grab a flash drive, throw everything on it, go to the other computer, and do it all in reverse. Not impossible, but a total pain.
Around 2008, I started working for a new company and they used Dropbox. It was this nifty program with folders that I could put my stuff in and then retrieve it on another computer! I was amazed. I am not computer illiterate, but I am old enough to remember how things were before, and Dropbox was the start of cloud storage for the general public.
What is the Cloud?
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re using some sort of cloud service. Now, I have family members who don’t know what Dropbox or OneDrive are, but they have cell phones and laptops and automatic backup, so the Cloud still comes into play.
In a nutshell, cloud storage is where your data are stored that makes it accessible across your devices. It uses the Internet instead of your personal hard drive and other products with physical storage, i.e., flash drives, cameras, computers, phones, external hard drives. It’s this whole big thing that’s super technical, but there’s no need to worry about how it works unless you’re interested in that kind of thing. I am not.
I have used Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, and iCloud. I’m an iOS lover, but a Mac hater, so I’ll be comparing the first three. Plus, iCloud’s 5GB of free storage isn’t even worth writing about without having a Mac. Let’s get rollin’!
My first foray in cloud management systems was Dropbox, as stated. It did what it was supposed to and has made many improvements since 2008, but those improvements were on the tail of Google’s advancements, so many people dropped Dropbox before the company had a chance to catch up with the times.
- Easy to use
- 3.5 GB for free
- Useful tools, like Paper and HelloSign
- Compatible with Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
- Create New File feature
Easy to Use
Dropbox is easy to use and includes an interactive tutorial to get you started. It’s drag-and-drop feature allows you to add files to it easily, or you can upload them to your account via the site.
3.5 GB for Free
For the free version, you get 3.5 GB of storage. It’s not much if you want to store photos and videos, but it’s plenty for documents and smaller files.
Paper and HelloSign
Yet another name for a document (doc) creator that isn’t Microsoft Word, Paper is a nice little doc editor with useful features. You can easily include .gifs and code in Paper with a click or tap. It’s very much like Google Docs, although I like the featured apps offered for adding media. It’s streamlined and not fussy, and Unsplash is a popular site to get free-to-use images.
HelloSign is a feature to request signatures for documents. In the old days, you used to have to print all the documents out, initial each one and sign at the bottom, scan the documents, and email or fax them to the required parties. HelloSign makes this process so much more efficient and environmentally friendly. I don’t know if there’s a fee to use it, however.
Compatible With Mac
Dropbox is compatible with Mac and iOS so you can access your data on Apple products.
- 3.5 GB for free
3.5 GB Free
Free storage is a pro and a con. It is a pro because they don’t have to offer it, but it’s a con because it’s only 3.5 GB for free. I have tons of pictures of my family and pets that I store on an external hard drive and in the Cloud because I would be devastated to lose them. Right now, I have about 15 GB of pictures. Dropbox’s free storage doesn’t even come close to backing up my pictures.
Dropbox jumps from 3.5 GB for free to 2TB for $9.99 a month billed annually or $11.99 a month billed monthly. There is no in-between. It’s much more expensive than other cloud storage systems out there.
Dropbox lost popularity once Microsoft and Google jumped on the cloud storage bandwagon. It is not the go-to cloud storage company, and it’s important to have the same products as your family members and companies in order to share and collaborate.
Google Drive/Google One
I’m a Google girl, so Google Drive is obviously my favorite. Google has added Google One in addition to Google Drive. Google One is a subscription plan that you can add family members to and save more than work files and documents. You can save photos, music, emails, and more.
I am a business owner, so I use Google Drive File Stream for G Suite users. It’s basically a virtual drive, which is great. They also have Google Backup and Sync for non-business owners.
- 15 GB for free
- Unlimited storage for high-res photos
- Compatible with Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
- Easy to use
- Very popular
15 GB Free
Google gives you 15 GB free, which is pretty awesome and beats iCloud and Dropbox. Google has their hands in a lot of pies and it can get confusing, but they have your back. Their storage includes Google Drive, Google Photos, Backup and Sync, Drive File Stream.
Google One is the best way to keep track of everything, including Gmail email and backing up your phone if you’re an Android user. However, for business owners or G Suite subscribers, Drive File Stream is a good option.
Unlimited Storage for High-Res Photos
Amazingly, Google offers unlimited storage for high-resolution photos with Backup and Sync and Google Photos! This means your free 15 GB storage isn’t affected by your photos. With Google Photos, you can automatically back up any pictures you take with your phone and when you delete them off your phone to free up space, they are safely in Google.
With Google One, you can upgrade to 100 GB of storage for $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year. For $2.99 a month or $30 a year, you can get 200 GB. For $9.99 a month, you get 2 TB of storage, and 10 TB of storage is $49.99 a month. You can add up to five family members to this plan for no extra charge.
Google Drive is very popular in the business industry. My clients use Google Docs and Sheets. With Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides (the equivalent of Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), you can share your work with others and allow them to view only, comment only, or edit. You can share with people via email or allow anyone with the link to view, comment, or edit. This is a great way to work with team members and clients.
- Too many different services
- No phone backup for iPhone users
- No unlimited photo storage for Google One
- Drive File Stream does not work offline
Too Many Services
As mentioned, Google offers so much that they are all over the place. They have Drive File Stream for G Suite users, but Backup and Sync for personal accounts. They have Google Photos and Google Drive and Google One, which are all separate programs. I don’t know what their plans are for Google One, but hopefully they’ll do some combining for their users.
No Phone Backup for iPhone Users
Phone backups take up a lot of space. Google offers the ability to keep your backups with them, but it’s only available for Android users. Considering iCloud’s laughable free storage, this isn’t helpful for iPhone users.
No Unlimited Photo Storage for Google One
The unlimited photo storage isn’t available for Google One. It’s not too bad, considering how cheap their storage is, but it doesn’t really make sense that you can keep your photos in one program, but not another. Photos, emails, and Google Drive counts against your storage.
Drive File Stream
If your Internet’s down for whatever reason, you cannot access Drive File Stream, even if you made your documents available offline. This is super frustrating. I don’t know why they did this. It will say the drive is not available if you try to access it while offline.
I might like OneDrive if I wasn’t forced to use it just because I’m a Windows user. I tried uninstalling it and it did not go well. Plus, I already have Backup and Sync on my PC and Drive File Stream, so it’s overkill to have OneDrive as well, but Microsoft is a bully like that.
- Easy to use
- Easy to transfer computers
- Compatible with Mac
- Microsoft 365 included in two plans
Easy to Use
Most cloud storage services are user friendly. You can do the drag-and-drop thing or browse your computer or device. OneDrive is no different, and most of the options are automated. By default, your pictures, documents, desktop, and music are selected for backup. These are the most popular and important, so it makes sense.
Easy to Transfer Computers
It used to be a real pain switching computers. If your old one died, you were stuck doing everything from scratch. This involved re-downloading programs, putting any files you saved on a thumb drive on the new computer, getting your settings and preferences just so, and more. As an autistic, this was very traumatizing for me!
With OneDrive, now you just sign in with your Microsoft account and it’s like having your old computer! Microsoft has included your Windows preferences, such as font, font size, Windows theme and colors, and important files that were in the aforementioned folders. For someone who is resistant to change, it’s glorious. I have two PCs and a laptop and I can pick up where I left off with all of them. Syncing is the best!
Microsoft Office 365
Microsoft now includes Microsoft Office 365 in two of its premium plans, Office 365 Personal and Office 365 Home. This is a big deal. You can buy Microsoft Office 365 for $400. Yeah, it’s expensive. Or you can upgrade your storage and get 365 with that storage for up to six users!
|OneDrive Only||Office 365 Personal||Office 365 Home|
|100 GB||1 TB+Office 365||6 TB+Office 365, 6 users|
|$1.99 monthly||$69.99 annually||$99.99 annually|
I have the standalone 365 that I bought for $40 at ThinkEDU (you must be a verified college student for the discount) and I like knowing I will still have it if I can’t afford cloud storage, but that’s just me.
Similar to Google Docs, you can edit documents in your browser and the changes will sync with your desktop and other devices that has the OneDrive app installed.
- No annual option for OneDrive Only plan
- Less Popular
Personally, I don’t like to be told what to use, and Microsoft is notorious for that. They want you to use their products exclusively. OneDrive is integrated in Windows OS and it is a pain and destructive to your computer to undo it. I tried and messed everything up. This is not a con if you’re a diehard Microsoft user.
No Annual Option for OneDrive Only Plan
The OneDrive Only plan is $1.99 a month for 100 GB. You cannot pay annually with this plan. Again, not a big issue, but it can be annoying to some users.
I like OneDrive all right performance wise, and it’s very similar to Google, but most companies and clients I’ve come into contact with use Google Drive, and it makes it easier to use the same programs as those I’m working with.
All three cloud storage management programs have great features and perform well. It comes down to preference and how much storage you need. I choose Google Drive/Google One because I’m a big Google user. I do have accounts with all three, but I use Google most and pay for it.
OneDrive is great to have if you’re a Windows user and Microsoft fan. I rarely use Dropbox and often forget about it. On the rare occasion that I work with someone who uses Dropbox, I bring it up in my browser and work from there.
So, for me, it’s Google Drive/One, OneDrive, and Dropbox. Your methods and preferences may vary. You can’t go wrong with any of them, however.