Which cloud storage provider is right for you? An overview of the top six platforms

Choosing the cloud storage that is best for you
Ben Chappell · May 28th 2019

At Publist, I have spoken with hundreds of people about how they manage their files, and I have asked each one of them the same questions, "What cloud storage provider do you use and why?"

Having heard from so many people and teams about the cloud storage providers they use, I want to give a quick summary of the top six platforms.

Google Drive:

Google Drive was the most cited storage provider by a wide margin. In addition to their trusted security, teams functionality, and intuitive UX, I think Google Drive's popularity is also the result of most people having an account by default. Anyone that uses Gmail also has google drive, meaning when I go to share drives and documents on Google Drive, I generally don't have to worry about whether or not they have an account.

Google Drive gives new users 15GB of free storage. This is the most storage given upfront out any of the major consumer storage providers. The only caveat is that emails and email attachments sitting in Gmail will be subtracted from you 15GB. This is still enough storage for many casual users never to need to think about buying more.

Users can purchase additional storage through Google One. While Google offers the most storage upfront, extra storage is significantly more expensive than some of the other providers I will cover. Plans range from $1.99 per month for 100GB all the way to $299 per month for 30TB.

If you want to build your business around Google Drive, you can do that too. Google Drive for Work includes unlimited storage for files, folders, and backups for $8 per user per month plus $0.04 per GB. You can sync all your business files, including Microsoft Office files, across your computer, smartphone, and tablet to access your work whenever you need it.

The most cited reasons for using Google Drive I have come across are its apps and robust teams functionality. Users can create Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets from within their drive, and can even view, edit, and share Microsoft Office documents from within Google Drive using some chrome extensions.

Users can create shared team drives while still being able to edit the permissions on documents individually. Team Drives also include a 'Quick Access' feature that can help you find required files quickly. 'Quick Access' analyzes trending topics, team calendar, and other data to suggest files to team members.

Overall: Google drive has easy to use teams functionality, a great app suite, and the most storage given upfront out of all of the major providers.

Dropbox

By creating an account on Dropbox, you'll earn 2GB of cloud storage, the lowest amount given by a major service. However, you can earn up to 16GB of storage by completing tasks like reading their tutorials and inviting friends to create accounts.

While the free tier, called "basic," is just that in most regards, it allows you to collaborate in real time with others in Dropbox Paper, its word processor tool. Dropbox Paper is currently limited to text documents, though users in any tier can open and edit stored documents through Microsoft Office online tools like Word and Excel for free.

Dropbox Plus will also unlock a host of features that aren't available to basic users. Dropbox Plus users get 1TB of cloud storage, offline file access, and the ability to instantly back up photos and videos taken with their smartphone. Dropbox Professional pro users get 2TB, as well as several features on top of what you get with Plus. Most notably, you can recover deleted files and changes to said files for up to 120 days, Dropbox can keep your local files updated automatically via Smart Sync.

Where Dropbox really excels is in its simplicity. The UI could not be more intuitive, and uploading a file is as easy as dragging and dropping it into the Dropbox folder on your desktop, a feature Dropbox is known for pioneering.

Overall: Dropbox is the simplest and easiest to use of the major cloud storage platforms, and the fact that you can use it on almost any platform is a huge advantage.

Box

Box's UI is very similar to Dropbox; however, Box is different from Dropbox in two main ways. First, they focus on team and enterprise features, second, they have google apps integrations.

Signing up for an individual account at Box gives you 10GB of cloud storage, which is a good start. Similar to Dropbox, Box natively allows its users to create text documents that can be edited in real time with collaborators. Box also offers the ability to edit other types of documents with Microsoft's Office tools integration, but unlike Dropbox, they also have google apps integrations. Meaning you can edit word and excel documents as well as google docs and google sheets in Box.

Box is optimized for enterprise users and large teams more than most storage providers. Where Box really shines is as a groupware or workflow application. Used that way, it enables you to share files with colleagues, assign tasks, leave comments on someone's work, and get notifications when a file changes. Box's focus on larger teams is also very apparent in their pricing model, which does not include a free tier and has a minimum of three users per account.

Overall: Great Dropbox alternative for large teams but falls short for individuals.

Onedrive

For Windows 10 users, OneDrive is embedded in the operating system by default. For Windows users, OneDrive is just another directory in the file explorer. You can also use Onedrive on the web, with a desktop app for Mac and earlier versions of Windows, and with OneDrive apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.

With Onedrive, you can edit and collaborate on any Microsoft office online documents. This puts it on par with google drive for native apps, but the teams and sharing functionality is not as simple as google drive.

OneDrive comes with 5GB of free storage. Office 365 users get an extra terabyte for starting with the $6.99-per-month subscription. If you're an Office 365 user, this is a great deal. You can also add 50GB to OneDrive for $1.99 per month, or you can get some free storage by purchasing a Microsoft surface device.

Microsoft also offers Onedrive for Business. OneDrive for Business is a marriage of OneDrive and Office 365. With Office 365 Business, Business Essentials, or Business Premium plans, the prices start at $5 a user per month with an annual commitment. With any of these packages, you get 1TB of storage per user.

Overall: Great option if you are already a dedicated Windows or Office 365 user.

iCloud

For Mac users, iCloud comes embedded into the Mac operating system just like Onedrive comes embedded into the Windows operating system.

Everyone with an Apple ID gets 5GB of iCloud storage, which can be easily accessed on your iPhone, iPad, or via the iCloud site. Apple's cloud storage solution is good at the basics if you're just keen on storing your documents, photos, and videos. Like Google Drive, iCloud offers its own suite of productivity apps (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) to all iCloud users, complete with real-time collaboration across devices.

For some, iCloud's advantage over the services will be that it's dead simple to use and looks like iOS on the web. Your files and other vital info gets ported over to iCloud, like your iMessages, calendar, reminders, and notes.

In addition to being an online workspace, iCloud can also store backups of your iPhone and iPad, should you ever need to restore your information to a new device. Keep in mind that doing so will probably make all, or much of, your 5GB of free storage quickly disappear.

The downsides to iCloud are that it doesn't do a great job at handling large files, and Apple makes it tough to back up data from iCloud onto another cloud platform.

Overall: iCloud is a convenient solution for Mac users who don't need additional backups of their files.

Zoho

Unlike the other providers mentioned, Zoho is not a dedicated cloud storage platform. Zoho includes cloud storage, but cloud storage is not the companies focus.

Zoho is primarily a business suite comprising of many cloud tools. Zoho offers Workplace, Finance, HR, and IT management tools as well as a CRM with storage as a bonus.

Zoho gives 1GB of storage to users for free and then includes 5GB in its $4 standard plan and 25GB in its $6 premium plan. This is a great deal if you already use Zoho apps for your business's workflow.

Overall: Great if you need an entire business apps suite but not great as a dedicated cloud storage platform.

Summary

Google Drive - Has easy to use teams functionality, a great app suite, and the most storage given upfront out of all of the major providers.

Dropbox - The simplest and easiest to use of the major cloud storage platforms and the fact that you can use it on almost any platform is a huge advantage.

Box - Great alternative for large teams but falls short for individuals.

Onedrive - Great option if you are already a dedicated Windows or Office 365 user.

iCloud - A convenient solution for Mac users who don't need additional backups of their files.

Zoho - Great if you need an entire business apps suite but not great as a dedicated cloud storage platform.

Want to keep in touch?

Stay up to date with Publist and get early access

LogoCreated with Sketch.

A desktop for the cloud.

hello@publist.app

1233 Howard St
San Francisco, CA 94103

© 2019 Publist. Made in San Francisco, CA.