Since Drew Houston founded Dropbox in 2007, the use of Cloud storage has exploded. You’ve most likely used online storage to share files or collaborate. Now all the big tech companies have gotten into the cloud storage game including Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple. With many viable options and cloud storage pricing all over the place, how do you choose the right one for your needs?
People often choose online storage that’s free and easy to access. For example, those using Microsoft 365 naturally may opt for Microsoft OneDrive. Computers with Windows 10 typically connect to OneDrive.
People preferring Gmail and Android devices may find themselves relying on Google Drive. MacBook owners tend to go for the integrated Apple iCloud storage. In some cases, shoppers simply look for the service offering the most storage free.
These providers provide free storage up to a certain point. Here’s how much free cloud storage each one supplies:
Anyone who uploads photos, videos, and Acrobat PDF files to the cloud will see their storage fill quickly. These file types will need a massive amount of storage. It gets expensive. So, it’s smart to compare cloud storage pricing. But you want to look at more than pricing. People use storage for different reasons. And free accounts don’t satisfy every requirement for online file storage.
Types of Cloud Storage
There’s more to the cloud than saving your files online to share and access from anywhere. Every cloud storage provider has a focus. Some offer complete backup and recovery services, some offer collaboration, some offer file sync, some offer file storage, some offer workflow integrations, and some offer a mix.
With the many options available, you’ll want to do a cloud storage comparison to find the right provider. Yes, cloud storage pricing is important. Still, you want to determine what you require before figuring that out.
Here are some types of services to consider.
Online Backup Service
A cloud backup service allows users to back up their computer systems. These systems typically have a web-based or computer-based software that transfers, compresses, and encrypts the data from a user’s computer to the provider’s servers.
Cloud backup providers vary in the following options:
- Frequency of backups: Hourly, daily, and scheduled
- Encryption: Ideal encryption is at least 256 bits
- Restore options: Bulk restore (entire contents) or select files
- Access to files: Through a web browser, computer file explorer, or app
- Bandwidth usage: This is important because it affects computer performance
These are just a few of the possible features. The point of these services is to restore your data after it’s gone. Imagine someone losing a detailed well-researched report. That’s hours of work down the drain. Regularly backing up data makes it possible to restore critical files like these when the originals are wiped out.
Online File Storage
With online file storage, you save files to the cloud as needed. You could do it on a per-folder basis or a per-file basis. You’re probably familiar with Windows File Explorer or Apple Finder. Those tools let you manage files and folders. Online file storage is similar. Except instead of saving files and creating folders on your computer’s hard drive, you’re managing them in the cloud.
The big difference between these two is that you can access the files and folders in the cloud from any connected device. For instance, you have a desktop computer, a laptop, and a smartphone. You create the file on your desktop computer and save it to the cloud.
You go to a coffee shop with your laptop. To access the file, you’d log in to the service where you’ve saved your file. And your file is there waiting for you.
Maybe you go to a friend’s house. Someone calls you and requests the file you saved to the cloud. Naturally, you don’t have your laptop or desktop with you. So, you whip out your phone. You may use the cloud storage provider’s app or visit its website on your phone’s web browser. Log in and you can send the link to the file.
It’s not always feasible to send files by email. It may be too big or security is a concern. Online file sharing solves that problem. Users can share files with others without sending them by email.
Online file sharing also simplifies team collaboration. If the file is on one person’s computer, the others cannot access it. What if the person is away from the computer? It’s not an issue when you use the cloud for file storage.
Every cloud storage service is different. But most provide a link to the file for forwarding to others. Or you can share it with specific people by giving them access. This is done by entering their email addresses and they will get an email with the link to the file.
Some providers take file sharing up a notch by adding collaboration tools. Google Docs is a good example. Someone can create a new document in Google Docs. The file owner assigns document editing permissions to select individuals. They’ll be able to view the file and edit it.
There are all kinds of possibilities for cloud storage. That’s why want to make a list of your requirements before doing a comparison.
How Does Cloud Storage Pricing Work?
As you begin comparing cloud storage services, you’ll find prices all over the place. It’s hard to compare because it’s often comparing apples to oranges than apples to apples. Say you’re looking for cloud backup.
Here are some features available for cloud backup:
- Backs up all user data
- Handles files of any size
- Includes external USB or hard drive backup
- Offers private encryption key
- Has the ability to locate a computer
- Does unlimited data backup
- Allows backup of more than one device
- Uses own app or web browser
- Provides multiple tech support options
- Ships a hard drive for restoring files
- Supports automatic video backups
This list of features barely scratches the surface. Most providers have one thing in common. They offer monthly and yearly plans. Customers who pay once a year pay less than those who pay on a monthly basis. The downside of the yearly plan is having to shell out more money upfront.
For example, a monthly plan could cost $15 per month. For the same plan paid on a yearly basis, it may cost $162. If you opt to pay once a year instead of monthly, you save $18 for the year. Some services offer two-year plans for additional savings.
As you look at cloud storage pricing, pay attention to the price structure. Some say “$5 per month billed annually.” You’re actually paying $60 upfront. Some services have a toggle button that allows you to switch between monthly and annual prices like on the Dropbox pricing page. Providers targeting businesses may have a per-user rate. For instance, the Basic plan for G Suite, Google’s business offering, is $6 per user per month.
How Do You Compare Cloud Storage Pricing?
The other challenge with pricing is that some cloud storage services do more than one thing. Google Drive doesn’t just store files. It also supports file sharing and collaboration. Its G Suite consists of a productivity suite of applications equivalent to Microsoft Office and 365: OneDrive, Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Meet, and Slides. Comparing the two companies will be more apples to apples.
Box, on the other hand, does not have its own productivity suite in its cloud management and file sharing service for businesses. Instead, its service integrates with many applications. What this does is let users open and edit files without leaving Box cloud storage service. But it works with more than docs and spreadsheets as it includes Salesforce, Slack, DocuSign, and other integrations.
Online Cloud Storage Pricing and Services Comparison
Google has another product different from G Suite that’s more for personal use called Google One storage. The free plan includes 15 GB of storage. However, know that the plan includes Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos. Increasing storage to 100 GB costs either $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year for a savings of $3.89 per year.
Microsoft OneDrive is comparable to Google One storage. The basic plan is free and provides up to 5 GB of storage. OneDrive 100 GB costs $3 per month. Like Google Drive works with Google’s productivity suite, OneDrive works with Microsoft’s productivity suite.
It’s easier to compare Google One and Microsoft OneDrive as cloud storage options. Businesses can compare Google G Suite and Microsoft OneDrive for Business. When you throw Box into the mix, that’s when it grows complicated. Box does not have its own productivity suite. Rather, Box integrates third-party apps, which happens to include Google and Microsoft apps.
As for Dropbox, it comes with third-party app integrations like Box does. But it also offers its own tools and services. For example, Dropbox Paper is a collaborative document editor for creating and sharing work. It can display videos, images, code, and sound.
Like Microsoft and Google, Dropbox has separate plans for individuals and teams. The individual plans are billed monthly and yearly. Teams pricing is per user per month.
Comparing Cloud Storage Pricing for Backup
In a separate category are online backup services like Backblaze, Carbonite, SugarSync, and iDrive. These services primarily do automated data backup. Backblaze pricing keeps it simple with one plan at $6 per month or $60 per year for automatic unlimited data backup.
IDrive has a free Basic plan for backups up to 5 GB. The iDrive Personal plan covers one user with unlimited computers. Its Business plan serves unlimited users, computers, and servers. iDrive pricing plans have tiered pricing based on the amount of storage.
SugarSync pricing plans consist of three plans and the amount of storage needed. The basic personal plan goes for $7.49 per month for up to 100 GB. The 500 GB business plan runs for $18.95 per month. And Carbonite pricing plans cover one computer to multiple computers and servers.
Finding the Right Cloud Storage Services
In researching cloud storage, determine if you want cloud backup, file storage, collaboration, or a hybrid. Once you narrow this down, visit the providers who specialize in the storage you need and review all their features. Set a budget. Then, make a checklist of your needs and nice-to-haves. That should guide you in your search for the right cloud storage service.