How to Pick An Online Storage Service

The online storage service is fast becoming another essential service much like broadband Internet access, mobile phone service and more. The good news is that today, there is a huge number of service providers for us to choose from and that hopefully will keep service rates and quality in check.

Some of the main online storage service providers are Dropbox, Mozy, SugarSync, SkyDrive, Carbonite, SpiderOak, Google Drive. This only represents just a few of the very many service providers out there. So we really are spoilt for choice. How do we go about choosing the right service provider for our needs and budget ? That takes a bit of time and effort but here are a few tips to help speed up the process. Happy hunting.

Service Rates : This is a good place to start to narrow down your search. Many offer a free basic storage from about 2GB to 7GB. When you exceed that, you normally have to get onto one of their paid plans. Some are very reasonable but some are really getting up there in their rates especially when you need more storage space. Some don’t even want to publish their rates so I did not bother to dig further.  I’m a little sceptical when people only want you to signup and are not forthcoming with their pricing. Don’t go for the absolute cheapest but there’s no point paying more than what you need to either. Basically go for good value for money.

Platforms Supported : Most service providers support Windows and Apple Mac. If you need Linux support as well then you have to ensure that they have support for this.

Mobile Devices supported : You’ll want to access your files and media on your mobile devices like ipads, iphones, Android tablets and phones,  BlackBerry’s etc. However, not all service providers support all these devices. So you need to check that your mobile devices are supported by your chosen service provider.

Single or Multiple Backup Or Sync Folders :  Some allow you to sync one folder only so everything that you want to sync or backup has be put in that folder. This has its good points as it makes it really easy to manage your sync folder. There are other services that allow you to specify any folder on your computer to be synced or backed up. This is my preferred option as I don’t need to move my stuff into this special folder to sync or backup. Beware that this can also get really confusing if you don’t manage it well.

Security & Encryption : Whether any security or encryption technology is used when data is uploaded from your computer to the cloud server and also when it is stored on the storage server.

File And Folder Sharing : Many of these services allow you to share your files and folders with others. For example you may want to share some pictures with someone else. Instead of emailing as an email attachment (which might clog their mailbox), you can just provide them with a link to the folder that contains these photos.

Terms Of Service (TOS) : Many of us have been guilty of signing up for services without reading the ten pages of fine print. This is one time though that I think we should read the Terms Of Service as it concerns our precious and maybe very private digital content. So read the fine print this time especially with regards to privacy and security of your data as different service providers have different terms with regards to this. Think about what you are going to store and make sure you are comfortable with the TOS. Note also that for very private content, there are ways for you to encrypt your data yourself before uploading to your online storage server.

Customer Service And Support : Is there any customer service portal or helpdesk ? Is there a good FAQ or knowledge base so you can self help? Is there any video tutorials? Can you get help if you run into problems? Is there any email, chat or phone support available?

Summary of Popular OnLine Storage Services

Sugar Sync

SugarSync Online Storage

Sugar sync provides 5GB free storage from the get go. Spend a few minutes to go through their tutorials and you get another 750MB. Refer a few friends and you get another 2GB free. Their paid service is not the cheapest but is very competitive considering the feature set of their service and the support that they provide.

I like this service is for its richer feature set. Many of the other service providers only offer one folder for syncing which means that anything you want synced or backed up has to be dropped in that folder. With Sugar sync, I can just say I want to sync the “My Music” folder and the “My Pictures“ folder and it does the rest. There is no need to move my files and folders into a special sync folder for it to get synced or backed up.

I can also specify if I want these folders to be synced or just backed up. “Synced” meaning that it is accessible on my other computers and files and folders across these devices are kept in sync. “Backed up” on the other hand means that it is just kept for safe keeping on the cloud server. It is not visible on my other computers and devices.

Aside from that, they have the most comprehensive support for portable devices like ipad, iphone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile etc. A very mature product/ service with a comprehensive Video tutorials,  FAQ and online chat. Online chat is accessible right from their File Manager. Phone support is not included in their standard plans but can be added as an option. Their business plan includes phone support as standard. Good value for money in my opinion.

5GB-7GB  : Free |  30GB : $49.99 p/year, 60GB : $99.99 p/year, 100GB : $149.99 p/year

SugarSync Website



SkyDrive Online Storage

Sky drive provided 7GB free right from sign up. Their paid plans up to 100GB are the cheapest that I could find during my research. However, I could not find any plans above 100GB so I’m guessing that you need to contact them for this. Good support for sharing your files on the cloud server.  Tight integration with their office applications like Word, Excel, Power Point and as well as Windows Live, Hotmail and MSN. Access your Hotmail and Messenger accounts directly from your web account.  Skydrive has the largest free storage quota and cheapest paid plans up to 100GB.

While there was support for iPhone and iPad’s and Windows phones, I could not find any support for Android phones or tablet devices yet.  There does not seem to be support for multiple sync folders like in SugarSync.

7GB : Free | 27GB : $10 p/year | 57GB : $25 p/year | 107GB : $50 p/year

Skydrive Website


Google Drive

Google Drive is another great choice too.  They offer 5GB free upon sign up. After Skydrive, it has the next cheapest paid plans. They even have plans up to 1000GB which makes them the logical choice if you have very large storage requirements. The other plus is the very tight integration with Google Docs, Gmail and other Google apps. In fact Google Docs as we know it has become Google Drive.  You can access everything the moment you sign in to your Gmail account.

For mobile devices, only Android devices are supported at the moment. As of this writing, there is no support  for ipads and iPhones but it is published on their website that it is “coming soon”. No support for multiple sync folders like in SugarSync.

5GB : Free | 25GB : $29.88 p/year| 100GB : $59.88 p/year | 200 GB : 119.88 p/year | 400GB : $239 p/year | 1000GB : 599.88 p/year

Google Drive Website



Dropbox Icon

I just had to include this service as it is still one of my favourites. I have used this for a number of years  for all my stuff that I wanted synced and it worked well every time. Very reliable and never let me down. They support Windows, Mac and Linux platforms. They have mobile Apps for most major devices as well like iPads, iphones, Android devices and Blackberry’s. I do not see an App for Window Mobile though.  They offer 2GB free to start but their paid plans cost more than the other service providers mentioned here.

2GB : Free | 50GB : $99 p/year | 100GB : $199 p/year (They offer additional free storage for referrals)

Dropbox Website

Related :

What is Online Storage And Why Do We Need It ?