So you're browsing the cloud storage marketplace, on a quest for the big warehouse in the sky for your firm. Offerings from behemoths, such as Amazon, Apple and Google, compete against the usual (and familiar) suspects, like Mozy and Dropbox. Plus, other third parties, including OpenDrive and Livedrive, are also vying for your storage dollars. One size doesn't fit all, as you'll discover.
Before you look at the various providers' ins and outs, you need to determine your own specific priorities. If your company is comprised of collaborating telecommuters, for instance, who hop from PC to iPad to smartphones galore -- and back again -- you need a platform-agnostic sync-friendly service, with mobile apps up the wazoo.
If you shuttle gargantuan files back and forth, consider a storage plan with some serious capacity. You need to look for a plan that either does not cap file size below your norm or one that has no file size restrictions. Some providers offer unlimited storage. Note that this all-you-can-eat approach will typically have a limit of its own -- such as the number of users. And of course, you will pay for each additional seat.
Overall, cloud storage services do a solid job of protecting your data. Many of the companies we looked at encrypt your files while they are en-route to the cloud andguard your files while in storage. Not surprisingly, with some premium business and enterprise plans, you're paying for more sophisticated security. To please customers whose data is super sensitive, some vendors now also offer plans where the customer -- and not the storage provider -- holds the encryption key.
While some services offer 14- or 30-day free trials, many of them reel you in with free storage accounts, which are ideal for your personal files, like music and photos. Expect the gratis accounts to run from a couple of gigs up to 7 GB of storage. Obviously, taking advantage of the freebies is an easy way to get familiar with the interface and check out its sharing and syncing procedures first-hand. At the same time, you can figure out whether it's worthwhile to pay for the vendor's business plan.
Your colleagues and clients can wax lyrical all they like about their cloud storage vendors. And that's great: Their feedback can help you decide on your chosen one(s). But remember that no matter which cloud storage service you select, you're essentially putting faith in another party to safeguard your files. Keeping that aspect in mind, read on for our latest snapshot of reliable cloud storage options.
Sure, SkyDrive is aimed at consumers, but you'll find a couple of perks that will appeal to businesses. SkyDrive provides remote access to PC, Mac, Windows Phone, Android and iOS devices. Along with sharing files, you can create and edit Office documents on the fly using Office Web Apps; you don't need the Office desktop suite installed. The Web interface won't have all the features that the desktop version has, but it'll do the job for a quick edit. You get 7 GB storage for free, and at the far end of its pricing spectrum, 100 GB will cost you $50 a year. SkyDrive Pro, part of Microsoft SharePoint, meanwhile, acts as a personal library for business, with files up for grabs offline, and allowing automatic sync.
If storage and enhanced security are what you're after, Egnyte can deliver the goods -- at a price. The company's Enterprise Plan, for example, offers 3 TB storage at $12.99 a month, per employee. Unlike its less-expensive plans for small businesses, certain features come standard with the Enterprise Plan: integration with Outlook and Salesforce.com, along with beefed-up security such as extra-step user verification and mobile passcode locks. The 15-day free trial gives you a taste of the whole enchilada without any restrictions.
For a single user, JustCloud gives the best bang for your storage bucks: $9.95 per month for unlimited storage. You can sync and share files across Macs, Windows, Linux machines, iPads, iPhones, Androids, and more. On the security side, JustCloud encrypts data transfers using 256-bit SSL encryption. On the corporate front, business plans start at $20 per month for up to five users. There is a con skulking among all these pros, though: As of this writing, JustCloud lacks tech support over the phone. That may not be a biggie for you.
If Murphy's Law strikes and data dies a sudden death, Carbonite customers are covered: This service offers a secure file repository, backup and recovery system. Carbonite will please small business owners, home office workers and home users who are more focused on the storage itself, as it's unlimited. The company recently introduced its free Currents app, which lets users collaborate, sync and share files. However, unlike other services with monthly subscriptions, Carbonite only offers yearly plans for a flat fee, starting at $59. Carbonite performs automatic backups, secure transfers, data encryption at its destination and allows remote access from Macs, PCs, iPads and smartphones (Android, iPhone and BlackBerry).
Known primarily as an email alternative, YouSendIt jumped onto the cloud bandwagon with its own storage repertoire. The company's Lite version -- the freebie account -- is nothing to write home about: 2 GB maximum storage and a file cap size of 50 MB. Its Pro Plus plan promises unlimited storage for $14.99 per month and file size maxes out at 2 GB. Not surprisingly, given its legacy, YouSendIt lets you track downloads, return receipts and digital signatures. Your files are encrypted during transit and at the other end, and you can access them from your computer and your mobile devices (Android, iOS, Windows 8).
If your company lives and breathes Google Docs and Android, we recommend that you take advantage of Google Drive -- but not as the be-all and end-all in your storage arsenal. On the plus side, you get real-time collaboration, Gmail integration with links to attachments up to 10 GB, and 5 GB storage for free. We also like the handy detector that will prod you to change the permissions settings if you're about to share a file from Google Drive with colleagues who haven't been given the viewing rights. With Google Apps for Business, pricing plans kick off at $5 a month per user with 5 GB of storage, along with a 25-GB inbox size. On the downside, Google Drive does not work with Linux, BlackBerry or Windows Phone. (Using the Web browser will not be everybody's cup of tea.) With regard to support for Linux and those two mobile platforms, right now, the company says that it doesn't have any plans to share.
Like Carbonite, with its roots as a backup provider, SpiderOak had a head start on some of the young pups in the cloud storage fray. After the token 2 GB free storage, or $10 per month for personal use (up to 100 GB), SpiderOak's business plans ratchet things up considerably. Admins with a budget, and who don't want to worry about adding new users left and right, might be tempted by the company's $600 per TB per month for unlimited users. SpiderOak's security approach is noteworthy because during signup the company creates an encryption key that is unique to your own account; SpiderOak does not hold onto your password.
Managers of small offices will be attracted to SugarSync's reasonable monthly fees for businesses, starting at $55 for 1 TB storage and three users; unlimited storage costs you a $550 yearly fee for three users. There's no cap on file sizes, you can pick and choose the files and location where you want to sync, backups of synched files are automatic, and you can access your data when you're offline -- across Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and BlackBerry handhelds. Your files are uploaded using TLS encryption, and in situ, your files are encrypted using 128-bit AES encryption.