Many Cloud-based services fall into one of these categories:
- Productivity suites – Applications that help you be more productive
- Storage – Storing, retrieving, and synchronizing files in the Cloud
- Backup and Recovery – Backing-up data and being able to recover it
- Prevention – Prevent malware, typically spam and related components
- Search – Find items from either a holistic or from a specialty perspective
In this issue, we’ll explore popular options within Storage, the highlighted item above, and compare them with one another.
Storage often comes in a free version with separate professional/business (paid) versions that includes advanced features. The basic premise is that your data is stored in the Cloud – hopefully in a secure manner with sufficient redundancy – is available from any location on any device, and is synchronized between devices.
Most free versions offer these minimum features:
- At least 2Gb of storage with synchronization across multiple computers
- Easy access from mobile devices and PCs via downloadable client software
- Direct access to files through a web browser
- File sharing with other users
However, you typically must upgrade to a paid version to receive these capabilities:
- Access control – Define and control who can access what, where, and when
- Additional storage – Purchase extra storage once your limit is exceeded
- Auditing – Identify and record what files are stored where and by whom
- Integration – Integrate with other platforms (i.e.: Active Directory)
- Security – Enable advanced encryption and security techniques
Popular services (alphabetically) include:
- Box – 10 Gb free storage with NetSkope’s second-highest rating
- Dropbox – 2 Gb free storage with over 200 million subscribers
- Google Drive – 15 Gb free storage shared with Gmail and Google+ Photo
- SkyDrive – 7 Gb free storage and integrated within Microsoft Office apps
Box (www.Box.com) is a Q3-2013 leader in Forrester’s “File Sync & Share Platforms”. It offers a free version, but is built for professional use with available integration to Active Directory and LDAP, security with rotating encryption keys, access control, and auditing.
According to Netskope’s review of Cloud-based applications, Box was the second highest-scoring Cloud application, coming in the number two spot on the NetSkope Q3-2013 Cloud Report. (Please visit Netskope’s http://www.netskope.com/reports-infographics/netskope-cloud-report-q3-2013 for the complete report.)
My take: Box is the most-comprehensive offering, but a bit more complex due to its advanced features. It is a serious choice for those that value advanced features (access control, auditing, integration, etc.) and are willing to pay to get them.
With over 200 million users, Dropbox (www.Dropbox.com) claims market leadership. It is built upon Amazon’s S3 storage and is easy to use. The free version offers 2 Gb, but there is a professional (Dropbox Pro) version with greater functionality (and storage) and a business version (Dropbox for Business) that offers team collaboration. All three versions offer synchronization and file-sharing; the help screens are brief, useful, and entertaining.
My take: Dropbox is the easiest and most-fun to use, but it has the least amount of free storage and its paid plans are a bit more expensive than others.
Google offers Google Drive (www.GoogleDrive.com) as a stand-alone service or bundled within Google Apps. The free version offers 15 Gb with synchronization among devices and sharing among peers. It is a no-frills alternative with little glitz, just reliable storage at reasonable cost. It is the base of Google Apps.
My take: Google Drive has fewer doodads and the least amount of whimsy, but it is reliable and offers the greatest amount of free storage.
Microsoft offers its free version of SkyDrive (www.SkyDrive.com) with seven Gb plus an additional three Gb for students. SkyDrive is an option in newer versions of Microsoft Office and integrates to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Bing. You can also “fetch” files from your base computer via web-browser on a remote computer.
My take: SkyDrive offers the most for the least, although there is some buzz about slow synchronization between devices. Its “fetch” feature is unique among these alternatives and its integration within Microsoft Office is a killer feature.