Why you should use cloud backup

Cloud providers

There are many different cloud storage providers out there, and prices don’t vary much. Each of these providers will give you one Terabyte of data for around 10 bucks a month (as of August 2015). A Terabyte is enormous; it equals about 218 DVDs. Even power-users will have a hard time filling it up.

Below are four popular cloud providers I have personal experience with.

Microsoft OneDrive

onedrive

Pros
  • 15GB of space for free
  • The Office 356 plan comes with the latest version of Microsoft Office (still the best office suite available)
  • Edit Office documents in your browser
  • Deep Windows 10 integration
  • Stable, feature-rich desktop application
  • Good mobile apps
  • Fast
Cons
  • Web-interface not as impressive as Google Drive (yet)
In short

A great choice for anyone. The sync apps work very well on all platforms, and the Office 365 offering is hard to beat. The family plan for 5 people is a great deal to consider if you have family or friends to share it with. Nothing beats OneDrive in terms of value for money. The web-versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint aren’t as complete as their desktop offerings, but they’re nice to have if you’re not using your own computer.

Although OneDrive works great on all platforms, Windows 10 users have the extra benefit of being able to synchronize their personal settings to OneDrive, which is handy if you have multiple systems.

Google Drive

googledrive

Pros
  • 15GB of space for free
  • Comes with Google Apps office suite
  • Many online integrations/applications that hook into it
  • Edit Office documents in your browser
  • Most mature web-interface
  • Good mobile apps
  • Fast
Cons
  • Google Apps files are cloud-only and don’t sync to local system
In short

Another great choice for anyone. The Google Apps office suite isn’t as feature-rich as Microsoft Office, but it does work really well and will be just fine for most users.

Google’s office suite takes a different approach than Microsoft. Everything is done from your browser and no software is installed on your system. Google wants you to do everything in their cloud, which means the Google Apps documents you create don’t exist on your own computer as files. This works great and I’ve never encountered any problems, but it still feels like giving away some of my power. If they decide to kick me off for whatever reason or if someone does something with my account, I don’t have a copy of my files myself.

This only goes for Google Apps files, and it’s not an issue if this idea doesn’t bother you, or if you’re not planning on using the Google Apps part of the service.

Google constantly adds features, and their offering currently feels the most “high tech” of the bunch. A recent added feature is the new Photo App, which has object and scene recognition. You can actually search of terms like “sunset”, “dog”, “group photo” or “Eiffel Tower”, and it will recognize those things in your photos.

All in all, a very solid choice.

Dropbox

dropbox

Pros
  • 2GB for free, get extra free space for referring others with a 16GB cap
  • Easy to use
  • The one that started it all
  • Stable, feature-rich desktop clients
  • Good mobile apps
  • Fast
Cons
  • Feels bare-bones compared to OneDrive and Google Drive
In short

Dropbox was the first cloud-drive that went mainstream. It’s as synonymous with cloud-storage as Xerox is with making a photocopy.

This is a great choice for those who want a simple cloud drive without bells and whistles. Dropbox does one thing and it does it really well: synchronize files to the cloud. The desktop and mobile clients are easy to use, and they do everything you expect them to do. The web-interface is simple and intuitive, and everything has a solid feel to it.

SpiderOak

spideroak

Pros
  • True 100% privacy and security (unique selling point)
  • Lots of control over everything
Cons
  • 2GB 60-day free trial/no “free forever” plan
  • Slower than the rest
  • Desktop client might be intimidating/complex for novice users
  • More expensive than the rest
In short

The only option if you trust absolutely no-one with your files.

Microsoft, Google and Dropbox encrypt everything you put on their servers, but they can access those files, even though they promise you they won’t. SpiderOak’s client encrypts everything on your computer before it’s uploaded to their servers, and only you have the decryption key. They have no idea what you upload to their servers, and have no way of figuring it out.

This does make everything slower, and not as many handy features can be had as OneDrive/Google Drive. It ultimately works just fine, but I found it too much of a compromise compared to the competition. I just like convenience & cool features.

Google, Microsoft and Dropbox adhere to the highest standards in terms or security and encryption, have a great track record, and many enterprises and governments trust them, so I feel safe enough to go with them.

That said, if you’re very worried about your files (or have something to hide for whatever reason), SpiderOak is the one to go with.

Bottom line

Like anything in computer-land, there are endless discussions about which is best. Ultimately, each of these cloud providers offer good services for reasonable prices to millions of satisfied customers. You will be just fine with any one of them, and it mostly boils down to personal preference and what you’re going to use it for.

If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Microsoft OneDrive’s Office 356 plan, as Microsoft Office is included, the price is the most competitive, and the integration with Windows 10 is great.

I have also used (and will continue to use) Google Drive for many years to great satisfaction. Their office apps aren’t as extensive as Microsoft Office, but they’re very usable, intuitive, and user-friendly.

Dropbox is a great service that I mostly used during my college days because everyone was using it (these things work best if everyone is hooked into the same service). I always liked the simplicity of it, and it has never failed me.

SpiderOak is compelling because of its “zero-knowledge” privacy-policy, but for me, it is too much of a compromise in terms of features and user-friendliness. Many others swear by it, and they are just as right as I am.

And now, it is up to you to pick one.

Links, references, and tools

Cloud providers

Microsoft Onedrive
Google Drive
Dropbox
SpiderOak

Further reading

Cloudcomputing Wiki

Photo

Photo taken in Navarre, Florida. © Dick Hoebée

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