With more and more photos, video and music filling up consumers' hard drives, many people are turning to cloud-storage services to back up their digital media and other data. Cloud storage used to be rather expensive. That’s changing rapidly, and Google's recent price cuts for its Drive service are not only impressive, they're likely to spark a price war that will make storage even cheaper.
Of the three most popular personal cloud storage services – Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive – Google’s is by far the cheapest. At least for now.
Here’s Google’s latest monthly pricing:
Microsoft OneDrive offers 7GB of storage for free, and 100GB for $50 a year (about $4 a month). The service tops out at 200GBs for $100 a year. Dropbox gives you 2GB for free, 100GB for $120 a year ($10 a month) and 500GB for $500 a year.
All of these services are generally considered to be secure. Dropbox had a widely publicized breach a few years ago, but it tightened up security and hasn't had any major problems recently. However, each service offers some unique features and functionality.
Not surprisingly, Microsoft’s OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) integrates very well with Windows 8/8.1 and Office. You can, for example, open a Word document in Office that you’ve stored on OneDrive, a handy feature.
DropBox offers automatic backup and simple retrieval, which can be very important. If you’re using cloud storage for your working documents and files – not backing up to an external hard drive – this is a critical feature. Chances are you won't take the time to manually back up all of your data.
Google Drive is very simple to set up and use. If you already have a Google account, getting started with Drive just takes a few minutes. Google Drive supports the Firefox browser as well as its own Chrome browser, though in my experience it works a bit better with Chrome. If you log into your Drive using IE you’ll get a message saying it’s not supported and all features may not work.
One thing about Google Drive bothers me: Privacy. (Joe Wilcox over at BetaNews explored this at some length, recently.) If you read Google’s Terms of Service you see some potentially alarming language:
"When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content."
What exactly that paragraph means is unclear, and it raises serious questions about what Google might decide to do with your stuff at some point in the future.
Dropbox, on the other hand is clear and the language in its Terms of Service is reassuring:
"Your Stuff is yours. These Terms don't give us any rights to Your Stuff except for the limited rights that enable us to offer the Services. We need your permission to do things like hosting Your Stuff, backing it up, and sharing it when you ask us to. Our Services also provide you with features like photo thumbnails, document previews, email organization, easy sorting, editing, sharing and searching."
Teaser image: Gizmodo