Cloud storage is a wonderful example of how we benefit from competition. A couple years ago, there were fewer good services to choose from, and the ones that were available didn't offer as much storage--both free and paid--as they do now.
The only downside is that it's trickier now to figure out which online storage service is the best for your needs. Allow us to help out with this chart, which takes into account Google's recent price cuts on Google Drive storage.
To keep things simple, we'll focus on services that have a free version, desktop software and mobile apps. And we'll only consider personal use cases, rather than enterprise-level services that require multiple user accounts. Here's how Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, Bitcasa, Barracuda Copy and Mediafire stack up (all prices listed are per year):
|Google Drive||Microsoft OneDrive||Dropbox||Box||Bitcasa||Barracuda Copy||Mediafire|
|Free Space||15 GB*||15 GB||2 GB||10 GB||5 GB||15 GB||10 GB***|
|Space Per Referral||-||500 MB||500 MB||-||1 GB||5 GB||1 GB|
|Max Bonus*****||-||8 GB||20.5 GB||-||15 GB||None||50 GB|
|100 GB||$24||$24||$99||$60 or $120**||-||-||$25****|
|File Size Limit (Free)||10 GB||2 GB||-||250 MB||-||-||-|
|File Size Limit (Paid)||10 GB||2 GB||-||2 GB or 5 GB**||-||-||-|
* Includes Gmail/Google+/Picasa storage
** $60 plan has 2 GB file size limit but more business features; $120 plan has 5 GB limit
*** Ads appear during file downloads
**** Introductory rate; doubles after first year
***** May require camera uploads, social network posts, user feedback, etc.
****** Includes Office 365 subscription
A few takeaways:
- Barracuda's Copy offers the most no-hassle storage and, at least for now, the biggest opportunities to collect more storage through referrals. (This may change, as Copy's website says it's offering such generous bonuses to "celebrate Copy's launch," which happened last May.)
- If you need to pay for extra storage, but can limit your usage to 100 GB, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive are the cheapest options. And those are based on a monthly rates of $2, so you needn't lock yourself in for a year to get the best price.
- If you need more than 100 GB of storage, OneDrive has the edge. It's the cheapest, and it also includes access to Microsoft's Office suite on one computer and one tablet. (You can also pay $100 per year for access on up to five PCs and five tablets, and up to five users with 1 TB of storage each.)
Should you consider other services for reasons beyond the amount of free storage and prices for extra storage? Sure. Here are some that come to mind:
- OneDrive's tight integration with Office and Windows 8 makes it a great choice for folks who live in Microsoft's ecosystem. The same is true for Google Drive and its interation with Gmail, Android and Chromebooks.
- Dropbox has excellent support among software developers. If an app supports saving files to the cloud, odds are Dropbox is an option, if not the only option. Box's app support is fairly extensive as well; you can view a directory of supported apps through Box's website.
- Bitcasa's desktop software works a bit differently from the competition, for better or worse. When you move a file to the Bitcasa folder, it is actually deleted from your local machine, not just duplicated in the cloud. This saves storage space but means you could be separated from your files if you lose Internet access. Alternatively, the app lets you "mirror" any folder so it's stored both locally and online.
- If Barracuda's generous referral program ever changes, MediaFire may end up offering the most storage if you're willing to jump through some hoops.
Of course, there's nothing stopping you from spreading your files around to more than one service. You can even use services like Jolicloud and ZeroPC to manage all your storage in one place, but that's a topic for another day.