Best Cloud Storing and File-Sharing Programs of 2017

Cloud storage is not what it used to be, its more secure and a great way to keep your hard drive clean and your files safe. But like all shiny new things, there are a lot of providers. What may have started with just one or two companies, has now turned into hundreds of companies. So how do you find the one that is best for you?

First, to know what the cloud can do, you need to know it is and how it works. The Internet goes by many names, the web, the Internet, and the cloud. So while cloud technology may seem new, it’s just using an old nickname that most of us never knew existed.

Today when we refer to the cloud we think more about how to share resources, software and other information using the Internet. Information can be stored on physical services and then managed by a cloud service. Services like iCloud can manage everything from your music (my Apple Music is cloud-based) to storing photos and personal information.

Everything is in the cloud. Business, storage, communication, all in the cloud. But how much do we really know about the cloud and how well the cloud manages and protects our data?

But what makes the cloud different from how we store data on our devices?

Space. Not the outer kind, but close, the cloud kind. Data that you store in the cloud is data you don’t store on your hard drive. Which makes it easier to access data from documents to movies across multiple devices. You can store documents, presentations, and spreadsheets without taking away memory, and you can review the on your iPad, laptop, desktop, tablet, and phone.

So this means the cloud can store LOTS of data, and make that data accessible on multiple devices. Which is pretty darn sweet when you think about it.

Cloud services also mean you can finally stop emailing yourself photo and documents that you then upload to a program or Instagram. So if you are away from your phone, and you are desperate to upload the picture of you wearing giant foam hair in New Orleans (I did this for real), you can access the picture from the cloud. Then upload it to your laptop and share with the world what happens when you drink too many hurricanes.

If you don’t have a cloud service now, or you keep telling your Apple or Android device that you don’t want to upload to the cloud, you need to embrace the cloud and add a good data storing file sharing service.

Cloud storage does more than just store data…

The cloud is also an awesome communicator. It can talk to other apps and services, which allows it to move files and data like a ninja. And while the cloud is great for end users, where it as its best is in business. The cloud quietly integrates into business software making it more effective.

Employees can access their files from anywhere, which means you can work from anywhere. It allows you to manage and share files with ease, which means you can get more done. But it also means you can no longer use the “I can’t find the file” excuse t leave early on a Friday.

Cloud services can vary, so before you add a new cloud account, you need to know what you want it to do, and then find the services that can do what you want it to do. Programs like DropBox and SugarSync are designed to sync your data to every device to make it easily accessible.

But programs like Apple’s iCloud and Google Drive are more general. They are more about playing media and syncing to share media across all of your devices. So knowing what you need before you make a decision will allow you to choose the cloud sharing service that will work best for you.

To help you know what the most popular providers do (I am sure you saw this coming) we have reviewed them for you. We will let you know what each one does and what they don’t do. Which will let you make an informed selection.

Take the free one

One last bit of advice, don’t pay for it until you use it. Most cloud service providers offer a limited amount of space where you can store data for free. It may only be a gigabit or two, but it will be enough to let you know how their cloud storing works. Once you know how the operate you can choose to add more space, for a price, or you can just cut and run. Having no real skin in the game makes it easier to love them and leave them, or love them and keep them.

Google Drive-Our #1 Cloud Storage and File Sharing Service

Google has been trying to get you to put stuff in the cloud for awhile now. They started their document collaboration site, Google Docs before anyone had even heard of the cloud. They are masters at allow you to create and edit documents from anywhere. You can access them alone, or work together with a team, which makes it easy to collaborate from any location.

In addition to Google Docs you can also use Goggle Sheets and Slides, and all for free up to 15 GB.  Which gives you a more than decent amount of storage space on the house. Google offers some of the best cloud collaboration in the market, and no one can beat the 15GB that they offer.

You can also create files within Google Docs, Drive, and Sheets and they won’t count against the 15GB. They are still able to be exported, so while you have to create them in one of the Google options, you can move them to wherever you want them to be.

If you need more than 15GB you can add more storage space, you can get 100GB of space for $1.99 per month and 1TB for $9.99 per month, which will give you a lot of space.

What is included in Google Drive?

As Googles file and cloud sharing options grew, Google decided to rebrand the original Google Docs as Google Drive. But Google Drive is not just Google Docs it covers all of the cloud services offered by Google. So Docs, Sheets, and Slides all reside within Google Drive. Similar to Microsoft OneDrive, Google wanted to create one brand to make it easier for people to access on mobile devices.

Google Drive does more than just allow you to collaborate using the cloud; it will also let you sync files and folders between devices. Which allows you to access important documents from any device. You can also download the Drive app on your MAC or PC desktop and manage your files from your laptop or desktop.

Google Drive is built into Chromium, Googles web-based operating system which makes it highly compatible with Chromebook. You can also manage cloud storage using the Google Drive Apps for iOS and Android, and Google Pixel, which can let you access documents from anywhere.

You can also edit documents that have been created in other office programs, so if you want to collaborate on a Word document in Google Drive, you can. You can also access apps that allow you o virtually sign documents, or send a fax.

You can also organize and manage photos using Google Photos, while it is housed in Google Drive you can access it externally at googlephotos.com. Once there you can organize your photos in the cloud. Which will allow you to free up storage space on your devices, you can also easily save attachments from your email to Drive.

One thing to be aware of is that your cloud space is shared across all Google products, so if you never delete an email, you may end up with less cloud storage.

PROS:
  • Easy to setup with an existing Google account
  • You can easily move items from your email to Google Drive
  • Your photos will be backed up without having to access the Google Photos app
  • You can collaborate on documents that were created outside of Google Drive.

CONS:
  • You share your cloud space with your email accounts
  • Documents you build in Google Drive need to be exported before you can edit in another program

OneDrive-Microsoft

Microsoft’s OneDrive is SkyDrive with a new name and some new features. If you have Windows 8 or 10, you already have it as it is built into the operating system. You can find it in the file explorer next tote files you have saved on the hard drive in the list of options. But it’s not just for Windows users; there are apps for MAC, Windows Phone, iOS, Android and Xbox apps. You can also use the apps if your windows version is an earlier version than 8.

OneDrive allows you to store pretty much everything. Files, photos, videos, and documents. It also lets you access your uploads from Windows or mobile devices. The Android, Windows Phone, and iOS apps allow you to save a photo to OneDrive as soon as you take it.

What is included in OneDrive?

What OneDrive has, that no one else has, is Microsoft. With the most popular suites of Office apps, you can move documents to the cloud with ease. Microsoft just doesn’t want you to use their cloud service they want to be the only service you need. Microsoft Office is, without a doubt, the most popular option when it comes to creating documents. Now OneDrive makes it easy to store those documents in the cloud.

But OneDrive has some big dreams for what it can accomplish in the futureThey want to be able to manage your pictures and store the ones they know you like and purge the rest. To Microsoft, this is just the beginning of their relationship with you, and the more they learn about you, the more they can help you with some of the days to day things you dread doing. Like going through your photos and deleting them.

There are a few changes that have taken place during the SkyDrive to OneDrive transition, Microsoft no longer offers unlimited cloud storage to Office 365 subscribers. But they do provide you with 1TB of storage which depending on how you use it should be a sufficient amount of storage.

If you need more storage you can always buy more using the 50GB for 1.99 monthly plan. The 100GB and 200GB paid plans are no longer available.

PROS:
  • It is integrated into Windows 8 & 10
  • Because it is Microsoft it plays extremely well with Office.
  • When you set up a OneDrive account you can get access to Xbox Live, Outlook and Office 360.

CONS:
  • You may need to double check where your files are placed
  • Changes in storage amounts are a bit disappointing

iDrive

One reason we like iDrive is that no matter the package you choose, you don’t have to limit the number of devices that you can back up. Which is awesome if you live in a house full of people with devices, so if you live in a device rich environment, iDrive should be on your radar.

What is included in iDrive?

iDrive (I can’t wait for the day we stop the “iEverthing” and think up some creative names for our companies) charges you based on the amount of storage you actually use rather than charging you a flat fee. Which is great if you don’t require a great deal of storage, you can even get 5GB for free.

But if have a lot to store, it can get pricey. 1TB of storage is $70 a year, you can get a discount on the first year, but after that, it’s an annual price of $70. There is a lot of space between the 1TB and the 10TB plan. The 10TB tier is also a lot more expensive coming in around $500 annually.

iDrive is the individual and small business companion to iBackup, both are cloud services but iBackup is focused on enterprise level accounts. While the account users may be different, the way they connect with the cloud is similar.

With iDrive you can share files over email, Facebook or Twitter, which makes it easy to store and share images with your loyal followers.

PROS:
  • There is no limit to the number of devices you can add
  • iDrive has scalable plans that make it easy to grow or reduce the amount of cloud storage you use
  • You can back up videos and photos from Facebook and Instagram

CONS:
  • You can only use the Upload Folder on Chrome.
  • Accounts are operating system specific and cannot be shared, so if one device is Window and the other iOS you will need an account for each one.

Dropbox

Dropbox has become popular because they make things easy. You can access your files from almost any location, it is very device friendly which means you can install on every device you own. It also integrates with a variety apps, which makes uploading documents to the cloud an almost seamless process.

It also has improved the way it collaborates, now you can work with others in real time to edit and modify the same document. The one downside is that Dropbox costs more than some of its closest competitors. So if cost is your main driver, you may not find that Dropbox is for you.

What is included in Dropbox

There is no cost to download Dropbox apps, but unless you can live with 2GB of space, you will have to pay for additional data. You can start with a free account, and then earn 500MB for every referral you make or you can link to Twitter, or enable uploads, and earn up to 16GB. While you can earn space, Dropbox is on the low end of free storage space when it comes to cloud storage providers.

If you are going to need more than 16GB (which you have to earn) you can pay for Dropbox Pro. Priced at $9.99 per month or $99 per year ($8.25 per month) you can have 1TB of space. This price is a bit higher than options like Google Drive and OneDrive.

Dropbox also struggles when it comes to supporting for non-Pro users, you can spend the better part of a day trying to find a person to speak with, but most likely you will not be successful. Your best chance to get any support is by email, online forms or Twitter.

With Pro, you will get access to priority support, and some added functions that include enhanced file sharing, and being able to manage with shared files expire. If you want to access older files, you will need to add an additional service known as Extended Version History. For $39.99 or $3.99 monthly you can access previous versions of files and deleted files for up to one year. One extra is that reviewing older files won’t add to your storage space.

PROS:
  • One of the easiest ways to store and access documents
  • Decent file sharing options when you pay for the Pro level
  • With Extended Version History, you can access old and deleted files

CONS:
  • Free storage space is only 2GB
  • You have to pay to review older or deleted documents

CertainSafe Digital Safety Deposit Box

Clearly, a winner when it comes to the longest name, CertainSafe also wins when comes to keeping your data safe. Moving files to the cloud is a great way to free up space on your hard drive, but without proper security, you may open yourself up to data breaches and hacking.

CertainSafe allows you store your files safely by using some significant encryption muscle. You can choose between two levels, the first option provides 100GB of encrypted online storage for $12 per month for each user. If that is not storage space you can bump up to the 250GB options for $15 per month.

What is included in CertainSafe?

To get started you can take a test drive for 30 days, you don’t need to add a credit card, which makes it a nice way to get to know CertainSafe Digital Vault and determine if it is for you. One thing that makes CertainSafe different is their commitment to encryption.

Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive have all dealt with security breaches, and while that doesn’t make them bad options, CertainSafe has never been breached. By focusing on security they not only allow you to store data in the cloud, they also give you the confidence in knowing that your data will be protected.

CertainSafe has one primary concern, making data breaches impossible. They accomplish this using a two-part encryption system. One part you and one part CertainSafe, they create a different key for each file. They encrypt the data, and only you can have the date decrypted. So they hold one key, and you have the other. They cannot decrypt your files without your key.

While this may sound like the stuff of bad spy movies, it is actually one of the best ways to keep your files private and secure. To tell you how much they care about encryption, they don’t just use standard encryption, they take it to another level by using MicroEncryption.

MicroEncryption is the process of splitting encrypted data into pieces, those pieces are then stored on different servers and hard drives, which makes you data extremely hard to decrypt. A hacker looking for encrypted data will typically focus on one server or hard drive, by using MicroEncryption they would only find pieces of the encryption, which would keep them from accessing your files.

PROS:
  • CertainSafe uses MicroEncyption which makes accessing your data impossible for anyone but you
  • You can share files with users and guests
  • You can access previous versions of files without adding an additional service

CONS:
  • If you can’t remember your password you will lose access to your files
  • You have to share folders, you cannot share individual files.

SugarSync

If you want simplicity, SugarSync has it. It is intuitive and of all of the cloud storage options, we have reviewed by far the easiest to use. But what you will pay for SugarSync isn’t all that sweet. When you break it down, you are really paying for the ease of use, as most of the other features are a bit lackluster.

What is include in SugarSync

SugarSync is a bit sour when it comes to free accounts, they don’t offer one. While you can find a free limited trial for 30 days (you will need to add a credit card to use the trial) the absence of a free account with a few GBs is a bit of a downer.

Their prices also seem a bit out of line with some of their more established competitors. Just to compare, you can get 1TB for $9.99 a month with Dropbox and $99.00 will get you a 1TB plan with OneDrive that includes Microsoft Office 365.

SugarSync charges $24.99 per month for 500 GB, which means you will spend $299.88 annually while if you had chosen OneDrive would be almost $200 less and twice the space. So, unless you really crave convenience, this isn’t a product I would recommend.

PROS:
  • Easiest of all of the providers reviewed
  • Intuitive programs makes file syncing simple
  • It has decent apps for a variety of devices

CONS:
  • Beyond simple it doesn’t have much to add that other companies aren’t already doing
  • They have a high price for a marginal service
  • They lack a real-time collaboration option

SpiderOakONE

If you are looking for a provider that values your privacy, SpiderOakONEis a great place to start. No one at the company has access to your files. You are the key master and without your key, no one can access your data.

Which makes them the perfect provider if you have been a part of a data breach before, or you just have a lot to hide. You can try SpiderOakONE by using their free 2GB account for 60 days. This should give you ample time to determine whether or not SpiderOakONE is for you.

What is included with SpiderOakONE?

While other providers like Google Drive and OneDrive offer permanent free accounts, this one ends after 60 days but on the upside, you don’t have to add a credit card to use it. When it comes to paid accounts, you can get 1TB of space for $12 per month or $129 annually. If you were thinking wasn’t iDrive $59.99, annually the answer would be yes. If you need more than 1TB, you can use SpiderOakONE’s 5TB plan which is $25 per month.

You can customize your backup with SpiderOakOne by going to Settings, you can set an automatic option that you can set to back your files up every 5 minutes, or on a set day and time each week.

You can also select the size of the files to backup, so if you have large files that you don’t want to backup, you can choose to exclude those documents from the backing up process. SpiderOakONE doesn’t upload the entire file when you make a change, it will scan all the files and then find what you have changed and then just makes those changes on the cloud version.

They will also check for duplicates and remove them, which allows you to get the most out of your space. You can also right-click on any file or folder and have it back-up to the cloud, which makes it easy to upload things quickly.

 

Apple iCloud

If you have an Apple device you have most likely been asked about uploading data to the cloud. It is Apple’s way of trying to connect all of their devices and programs together. Most of us that have Apple products have more than one, so iCloud is their way of unifying the data stored on each device into one clean cloud storage solution.

If you aren’t an Apple fan, iCloud is probably not going to be for you. But for loyal Apple enthusiast, iCloud is pretty freaking awesome.

What is included in iCloud?

iCloud stores documents, music, photos, videos and even television shows, which means anything you can access on an Apple device can be stored in the iCloud (I know I said I was over the “iEverything” naming convention, but I will make an exception for iCloud because I love it).

You don’t have to be connected to the internet (which is the cloud) to access files from the cloud, with iCloud you can access your files even when you aren’t connected. You also get an email account, calendar and address book that is stored in the cloud.

You can create folders for your files and you can store apps like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote in your online storage. You can also add iCloud to Windows devices, it’s super easy. I have it on my Windows laptop and it was simple to add.

If you use iCloud on an Apple device you automatically get 5GB for free. If you need more storage than that, you can add 50 GB for $0.99 per month, 200GB for $2.99 per month and 1TB for $9.99 per month. Also, to store documents you will need to add Apple’s iWorks app, once you purchase the app you can add documents from Word and spreadsheets from Excel.

The best thing about iCloud is the way it works with iTunes, you can access movies, music, and games on every Apple device that is connected to your cloud account. You can also purchase media through iTunes and it will send it to all of your devices via the cloud.

One downside to iCloud is that it doesn’t play well with others. It seems to have been designed for you and you alone. Which means you cannot file share with other people like you can through Dropbox. If collaborating on documents is important to you, you may want to look at options like Dropbox, as they provide one the best collaboration cloud storage solutions.

PROS:
  • You aren’t limited to Apple devices you can use iCloud on Windows devices
  • Account comes with a free 5GB if you are on an Apple device and 2GB if you aren’t
  • iCloud excels at media management, the minute you add a movie or song iCloud will push it to all of your devices.
  • It’s easy to install, even on Windows PCs

CONS:
  • No apps for Windows or Andriod phones
  • No option for collaboration

Box

Yep, that’s the actual name. Perhaps that is why it’s the dark horse of this review article, with such a simple name, it is easy to miss. But lucky for you, we didn’t skip over Box, and that is because it’s a great service for storing and managing both personal and business files.

What is included in Box

Box allows everyone to sign up for a free 250MB account, which is not a lot of storage space. But it’s not the free space that people like about Box. It’s the way it shares, and how it keeps your files private. Box will not only store your files, they will let you share them with your co-workers, assign individual tasks, comment on files and Box send you a notification if something on file changes.

You can also create basic documents in Box using the text format, and you can use their app to sync files between your devices and the cloud. But they are also concerned about the privacy of your flies. You get to control who accesses certain files, and who can edit them. Box will even allow you to password protect files you want to keep private.

The business version of Box can connect to other apps like Salesforce which allows you to save documents easily. You can also add them as a plug-in for Microsoft Office, which allows you to save spreadsheets, Powerpoint presentations, and documents to the cloud from the app.

PROS:
  • Box is loaded with feature
  • They offer a depth of collaboration not found in other providers
  • It’s easy to intsall, even on Windows PCs

CONS:
  • No apps for Windows or Andriod phones
  • No option for collaboration

 

In Conclusion

If you aren’t using cloud storage you should start now. It is an effective, secure and easy way to safeguard your files and access them when you need them. If you are concerned about the security of the files you upload, services like CertainSafe and SugarSync work hard to encrypt your data and then keep that encrypted data from being compromised.

While other services like Google Drive and OneDrive provide a lot of storage space at reasonable rates. They also allow you to collaborate and manage your files from multiple devices. Finding a cloud-based storage option is easy, but finding one that meets all of your needs can be more challenging.  A lot of it depends on how much space you need and how you need to access the data that you are storing.

If you want an option that is accessible on multiple devices, you may want to look at options like Dropbox. They have more apps than you can count, which means any device you have you can probably get a Dropbox app for that.

While in the early days of the cloud things were a bit shaky, and some hacking attacks made people feel uneasy,but today the cloud is more secure than ever. So give your hard drive some space, and consider moving your files to the cloud.

Jennifer Kelley is an author and technology blogger. She feels weird writing about herself in the third person, but does so when asked. A graduate of The Ohio State University she is a dedicated football fan and a total dork who loves all things written. You can follow her on twitter @theonlyjen

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