Tuesday 21 October 2014

Get your head in the clouds with six of the best storage services

Published 02/03/2014 | 02:30

A court challenge by BSkyB has forced Microsoft to rename its cloud storage service
A court challenge by BSkyB has forced Microsoft to rename its cloud storage service

FIRST it was disk drives. Then came CD-Roms and rewritable DVDs. A few years ago, USB keys took over. How times change.

Today, cloud storage is the default mechanism that many small businesses are turning to.

Storing and sharing files is made much easier by being able to do it instantly on any PC or smartphone. Here are six services you might want to try.

Microsoft OneDrive

7GB free, €20 annually for 100GB

It used to be called SkyDrive until legal action from broadcaster Sky forced it to change its name to OneDrive.

The biggest perceived advantage of Microsoft's cloud service is that it allows a basic version of Microsoft Word in the cloud, from which you can print direct to any local printer.

However, it's relatively parsimonious on the amount of free storage it gives as a basic allocation (less than half that of Google, for example), but a few free bumps are available for executing certain functions (like uploading a video, which 'earns' you an extra 3GB). Of all its rivals, it has the cheapest premium levels of storage.

Google Drive

15GB free, €43.80 annually for 100GB

Google Drive may be the most effective cloud service for small businesses partly due to its integration for anyone who has a Gmail account or likes to work on a smartphone.

Almost any kind of file can be stored or shared using the service, with many files viewable without needing the proprietary software the file was created on. There's a massive 10GB-per-file upload limit (for unconverted files) but a modest 10MB limit for converted files (except spreadsheets or presentations, which have higher limits). Getting more storage costs €3.65 per month for 100GB or €36.50 per month for 1,000GB.

Apple iCloud

5GB free, €16 annually for 10GB,

€80 for 50GB

The integration of Apple's cloud system falls a long way short of some of its rivals.

Because it is aimed as an Apple-only system, there is no app for the majority of smartphones, tablets or laptops out there. That means no instant sharing or storage of documents and a clunky approach through a web browser, with all of the slowness that that entails.

For the (very) few who primarily work off iPads and/or iPhones, it's an efficient file-sharing service. But for most business users, this expensive, restricted service is a non-starter.

Dropbox

2GB free, €72 annually for 100GB

Of all the cloud-sharing services out there, Dropbox has arguably become the brandname most synonymous with the idea.

It has captured this niche due to its simplicity: you can start using the service, from scratch, on almost any device, in minutes.

Don't be fooled by the low 2GB storage rate, either: you quickly get bumped up to over 10GB by performing a few basic operations (such as transferring files).

Its drawbacks include having a file-organisation system that is still a little basic (meaning it's often used mainly as a storage dump). It's also a little pricey.

Box

10GB free, varying premium fees

This is the most focused business-orientated cloud service. It gives detailed stats on access, control and security that most of its rivals don't really offer.

The higher-level versions of the service also allow advanced customisation, including branding, own-firm terms of service and other enterprise-level features.

Its apps and desktop integration are excellent, too. For a small firm (one to 10 users), it costs €4 per month for 100GB of storage and a file upload limit of 2GB. Unlimited storage with 5GB transfer caps are available for €30 per month.

WeTransfer

2GB free, €120 annually for 50GB

A special mention deserves to go to WeTransfer. It's a slightly different concept to other cloud services, but is extraordinarily useful.

The basic version, which is free, allows you to transfer files of up to 2GB each time.

You simply provide the email address of the sender and recipient and upload the file. The service then emails the recipient to let them know that the file is ready to be downloaded. A premium version costs €120 per year and allows you to transfer files of up to 10GB.

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