Every now and then, we hear about “The Next Big Thing” whether it’s a new device, service, or even an app. But I wonder why no one’s said that about the cloud. It should’ve been one of those ‘big things’ long ago, yet, many people still have no idea what it is.

Well, because of the cloud, you’re able to do things as simple as sending emails, to uploading photos of your dinner to Instagram and pretty much anything that has to do with sending or sharing files online and much more.

One of the more common uses of the cloud is storage. Cloud storage is becoming increasingly popular, and the rise in competition between the providers is making these services dirt cheap.

The works most of them work is that you simply log into your account using a web browser, then you are presented with a view of files and folders, much like you’re used to on your computer. But the thing is that these files are not stored locally on
your device. Everything is stored in that cloud, and you’re just looking at your files that are kept up there.

Along with the web interface, you get two things: a mobile app, so you can access your files on your phone or tablet, view, edit and share them.

Then you also get a desktop syncing app for your computer. That app would create a shared folder, and all files you throw in that folder are automatically synced with the rest of your devices.

The question is, though, why would you use cloud storage?

  • Accessibility: Mobile, desktop and web apps so you can access your files wherever you are, as long as you’re connected to the internet.
  • Cost: Most of these services usually start you up with a few gigabytes of free storage, and then you’d have to upgrade once you’ve exceeded that limit. Though, the prices have gone down dramatically recently.
  • Sharing: Sharing files is incredibly quick. Each file/folder has a link that you can easily share with anyone via text or email. This is especially good if you often share files that are too large for email.
  • Collaboration: You’ll really appreciate this if you often work in groups. Other people who have access to the file or folder can edit and make changes, if you give them permission to do so. Some services also allow leaving comments, so your friends can let you know what they’ve done.
  • Sync: Changes are synced in real-time with all other devices you may be using. So you could start working on your laptop, and continue on your tablet a bit later, for instance.
  • Security: Cloud storage providers always emphasis privacy, because, well you probably don’t want anyone looking at your files other than you. Some have introduced more security measures such as two-step authentication to make things a bit more secure.

Now that you know how awesome it is, let’s take a look at five of the best cloud storage options and compare what they have to offer.

1. Dropbox

Dropbox is probably the most well-known of the bunch for a reason, it’s simple, reliable, secure, and they were one of the first to offer such a service. It’s pricier than the other ones, and you don’t get any productivity apps along with it, but it makes this list due to its simplicity and reliability. The interface is simple, easy to use and it just works.

2. Google Drive

Like Dropbox, Google Drive needs no introduction. In addition to the same storage services Dropbox provides, you also get access to Google’s online office suite.

Create or edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations on the go from your web browser, phone or tablet without worrying about installing any apps on your computer.

Of course, it isn’t as powerful as a fully loaded Microsoft Office, but you get more than enough features to do some basic tasks.

3. OneDrive

Microsoft’s OneDrive, formerly known as SkyDrive, is a lot like Google Drive: you get access to web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. If you are a Windows 8 user then you already have OneDrive on your computer.

Microsoft were kind enough to provide apps for all major platforms, both mobile and desktop. It even works on Xbox! Another advantage is that if you opt in for the highest option (1TB – $6.99/month or $99.99/year) you get an Office 365 subscription which allows you to install the full Microsoft Office suite on a number of devices and use the OneDrive to store and sync all your files.

4. iCloud Drive

This one is actually just a few days old, but it’s perfect if you own multiple Apple devices, say, an iPhone, an iPad and a Mac. iCloud debuted as a service to sync photos, calendars, notes, etc. between Apple devices. But they’ve recently updated its functionality to include Apple’s own office apps (Pages, Numbers and Keynote). Enter iCloud Drive.

Apple has wasted no time in showcasing the abilities of iCloud during the last couple of Keynotes. Unfortunately, the drive feature is only available if you are running the latest versions of iOS and Mac OSX. Don’t worry if you’re not, though. You can still use Apple’s office apps and sync your files through iCloud.

5. Mega

Probably the least popular of the five, but Mega deserves to be here for two reasons:

First, because they give you 50GB for free when you sign up, which is a whole lot more than the other four.

Second, these guys are all about privacy and security. You get a number of options to ensure that your files are encrypted, well-protected and that no one ever sees them, unless you give them permission to do so. Great if you have super important or very private files.

This table should help you decide which one is right for you.

Comparing Cloud Storage Services

*1TB=1000GB

Some honorable mentions go to Box.net, Copy and Amazon Cloud Drive. Say, you’re at your friend’s place, playing Call of Duty or whatever it is that you like to play. You lost track of time and forgot that you had to submit a paper in a ten minutes.

Now, unless you live next door, that’s not enough time for you to run back home and submit it. That’s it. You messed up, you got a big fat F, you won’t finish school and you’ll end up living under a bridge by next year. Or maybe not. You could use your friend’s computer, download the file off your Dropbox, for instance, submit it and then go back to your games.

 

About the Author: Hussain Taqi is a 21-year-old Computer Engineering student who loves researching and playing with the latest and greatest desktop and mobile apps.