Here, we’ve compared our top five cloud-storage services to see which ones offer the best value, using both the free limited- storage offers and the paid-for versions that give you lots more space at remarkably affordable prices.
HOW WE TESTED
GOOGLE DRIVE | From free for 15GB: drive.google.com
Google dropped its prices in March, and it now offers the best value for storage and syncing. You get 15GB of space for free, with upgrades available for 100GB (£1.19 per month) and 1TB (£5.97 per month).
If you only need 50GB or less, Mega is better value, but Google’s free option is still very generous and once you’re past the 50GB mark, it’s better value for money than Mega.
You can set up an association between folders on your PC and on Drive, and have the same folders or different ones syncing on various PCs. The web interface is a bit confusing – Drive originally used labels rather than folders, and some of this still affects the interface. For example, recently updated files rise to the top, while folders can disappear off screen, which is unnerving if you’re used to a Windows-like structure.
Google’s recent price drop, along with its very broad range of tools, make Drive our current favourite cloud-storage service. Its free offering is generous enough to keep you going for some time – possibly forever, if you manage what you keep there – and once you’re over 50GB, its paid-for options beat the
MEGA | From free for 50GB www.mega.co.nz
No-one beats Mega’s mammoth free cloud-storage offering of 50GB, which is more space than you may ever need. But once you cross the 50GB limit, there’s a big leap up to its first paid-for package of 500GB at £8.25 per month.
It’s good value if you’re at the 500GB end, and second only to Google Drive, but it’s a hefty price hike if you only need another 50GB. Mega has mobile apps for Android and iOS, though the latter looks blocky on an iPad. The sync tool is simple to use, and there are browser add-ons for Chrome and Firefox. Our main concern with the service is regarding founder Kim Dotcom’s track record. His previous cloud- storage service Megaupload was shut down because it was overrun by illegal movie and music file sharers, and there’s no guarantee that this won’t happen again.
We love Mega for its generous free space but the track record of the company’s founder would make us wary of using it for anything too important. It isn’t as slick as Dropbox, but the volume of free storage space available makes it a prime contender.
DROPBOX | From free for 2GB www.dropbox.com
Dropbox is wonderfully easy to use but this pioneer of online storage is getting left behind by the cost of its upgrades. You start off with a comparatively measly 2GB of free storage space, which can be boosted to 16GB if you pester your friends and family into joining the service. After that, prices rise steeply and are consistently higher than those of the other services in this test, at almost every level.
However, there’s no denying that Dropbox is tops for clarity, simplicity and options. The website works like Windows, so you can do clever things like drag and drop, and open proper right-click menus.
Its mobile apps are well designed and easy to use. The sync tool opens a folder for sharing everything in the cloud, or you can set up syncing individual folders if you prefer.
Everything about Dropbox is fabulous, except for the meagre allowance of free space and the cost to upgrade. Its web-based interface and downloadable tools are top class, and it’s by far the easiest service to use. We just wish it was cheaper.
ONEDRIVE | From free for 7GB onedrive.live.com
Microsoft’s SkyDrive became OneDrive late last year, following a legal tussle with BSkyB. At the
same time, its prices were updated and you can now get 7GB for free, and add another 20GB for five users
if you pay £79.99 per year for an Office 365 subscription. Without that, it’s the second most expensive service, starting at £2.99 per month for 50GB and rising to £7.99 per month for 200GB.
Microsoft has built OneDrive’s syncing tool directly into the Windows 8.1 File Explorer, so you can expand the folder tree in the left column as you would a physically attached drive. Non-Windows 8.1 computers need to download a sync tool. OneDrive is the only service in this Group Test to offer a Windows Phone app, as well as Android and iOS.
If you’re using Windows 8.1 and you’ve signed in with a Microsoft account, you’ll find OneDrive already waiting for you, preinstalled in File Explorer. Like Google Drive, it connects to web-based office software but there’s less space available than with Google and Mega, and it’s more expensive than Google Drive.
AMAZON CLOUD DRIVE | From free for SGB I www.amazon.co.uk/clouddrive
If you’re already an Amazon customer, Cloud Drive offers some interesting unique features: you can store your music purchases for free without using up your storage allowance, and it includes digital versions of any CDs you’ve bought on Amazon.
You get 5GB for free, which is better than Dropbox but less than the other services. Upgrade prices are similar to Google’s in the mid-range, but if you go beyond 200GB, Amazon gets very pricey – £24.90 per month for 1TB compared to Google’s £5.97. The software, apps and website are basic. On your PC, you get a sync folder and a notification-area icon with few choices over what to sync. The mobile apps only let you sync your phone’s photos and the website is unsatisfyingly clunky compared to the other services tested here.
You don’t get enough free storage with Amazon Cloud Drive, though any music you buy and store there won’t count against your limit. Paid-for upgrades start cheap but quickly become expensive, and the tools provided are the most basic in this Group Test.
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If we weren’t so concerned with the price and how little space you get for free, Bronze Award-winner Dropbox would win this test hands down. It has a wonderful interface and is very easy to use, but desperately needs to lower its prices to compete with Google.