Beyond Dropbox: Shopping the cloud

Beyond Dropbox: Shopping the cloud

Summary: Is it time to drop Dropbox? My subscription is nearly up, so I'm re-evaluating four major alternatives -, Google Drive, Microsoft Skydrive, and SugarSync - for price and features. Which is the best, and which is the best for me?

TOPICS: Cloud, Storage

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  • Gold, Silver and Bronze

    Tying it all together, I have to say I'm most impressed with Google Drive - in the abstract. They're not the least expensive, but their combination of price and plans is head and shoulders above the rest. Most of the other services are trying to game you into buying a plan that's better for them, than for you. Not Google. Google's platform coverage is excellent, if not everything I need.

    I'm also very impressed with The reason they're not #1 is that I feel manipulated by their restrictive plan structure. Like I said, if what Copy offers (free/15GB, 250GB, 500GB) is good for you, they go for it. They've got an impressive service.

    Third place was a tough decision. I seriously considered all of the remaining three products: Dropbox, SkyDrive and SugarSync at different times for different reasons. I'm choosing SkyDrive in spite of the their major disadvantage, that they max out at 207GB. The main advantage it has over SugarSync and Dropbox is the huge price differential. And if you're a Windows/Office user, SkyDrive has extra appeal.

    SugarSync fails to medal in this event, mostly because of price. It could be a lot higher. But it could be worse. It could be Dropbox.

    Dropbox is the market leader now, and they've done a good job with their product, but I have to think things will get a lot more competitive in the next few years. Windows users will have SkyDrive in their faces from now on and Google users have good reason to use Google Drive. That's a big chunk of the market. Maybe they should have taken Steve Jobs up on his offer.

  • The One I Choose

    If I weren't a total cheapskate I would probably go with As highly as I regard Google Drive, it's not the best choice for me.

    Given that I'm currently using 48GB of my 200 capacity on Dropbox I think I can get away with 100GB as a plan, but I'll also price out 200GB. I can't get exactly what I want from everyone, but if those are the sizes I was shopping for, here's what I would have to pay.

      About 100GB Plan Annual About 200GB Plan Annual 250GB $99 250GB $99
    Dropbox 100GB $99 200GB $199
    Dropbox w/PackRat 100GB $138 200GB $238
    Google Drive 100GB $59.88 200GB $119.88
    Microsoft SkyDrive 107GB $50 207GB $100
    SugarSync 100GB $99.99 250GB $249.99

    SkyDrive works better for me. With the way I use my cloud storage, it works just fine.

    This is what works for me. You choose what works for you. Just don't assume Dropbox is the best deal.

Topics: Cloud, Storage

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  • Well . . .

    "iCloud is more of a set of synchronization protocols. It's invaluable for users of Apple devices"

    Meh. To be honest, I've mostly avoided iCloud. It's unreliable, and doesn't play well cross-platform.

    "I'm also not considering BitTorrent Sync and a number of other services (some free) which require static synchronization. I only want the ones where the cloud works just like a local drive."

    I'd personally consider them myself if I were to switch away from Dropbox. To be honest, I don't feel like "cloud" is the ultimate answer to everything. If I can sync between all of my devices, I get all the benefits of the "cloud" without connecting to some third party "cloud" service. Who says that the only way to get "cloud" benefits is to connect to some third party mega-server-network on the internet?

    The biggest reason for me staying with Dropbox today is that most third party apps support it, especially YNAB, which I use for budgeting.

    "and performance testing of them would be quite a logistical challenge."

    And probably a bit senseless, as they all update your files in the background. None of them are really intended to be real-time file transfer.
  • SpiderOak

    If you want your data to be handled and stored securely, consider SpiderOak as an alternative. It's cross platform, functional, and has a design that deals with a lot of security issues many of the vendors just hand-wave around.

    The main downside is that the mobile clients aren't very featureful, so it doesn't provide the same kind of universal integration solution some of the others do. It depends on what kind of data you are handling.
  • pogoplug, symform

    Symform is an interesting company I've written about before, but it's a very different service from the other products here.
    I admit I didn't know about Pogoplug. My first impression is that anyone who says "Unlimited" on services like this is lying. It simply can't be true.
  • what about

    Why didn't you put in your comparison?
    Do you consider it to be out of league or is there some other reason?
    Mavko Žmak
    • not consumer-oriented

      I did explain this (page 2). Box is clearly positioning themselves for business, not consumers. From my own personal experience I'd also say that their software is awful (so I'm doing them a favor), but it's been many months, probably a year, since I tried it.
  • Break with tradition please

    "I want to consider all the factors, but the choice I make in the end may not be the right one for you."

    Please break from ZDNET tradition and don't make a single choice: examine typical use cases and produce options for each.

    We'll make the CHOICE!
  • Another suggestion -

    Cubby (by LogMeIn) is not the cheapest at $7/month for 100 GB but has the advantage that multiple folder trees can be turned into separate shared folders. Also included in that price is unlimited direct sync (device to device without a cloud copy).

    The iOS client (I don't know about Android) allows one to specify files and folders that are to be made available offline, something I have not seen with any of the other services.

    As with most of these services (SkyDrive being the exception) the is no Windows phone client.
    • Linux

      No Linux client either, although you can still log in to
    • Cubby price.

      Just a heads up, I just logged into and it displays a banner at the top of the page offering Cubby Pro for $3.99 per month. That includes 100 GB, DirectSync and Cubby Locks.
      • Cubby Ease-of-Use Very High

        Cubby is one of the easiest to use products, particularly when it comes to setting up the synchronization of multiple folders. I can recommend it (although I also have a free 25 GB SkyDrive account.)
      • Re.Cubby price

        Yes, that $3.99/month price is nice BUT it is only a promo. The price will go back up after the first year, AFAIK
  • Security?

    I'm assuming all services encrypt user's data but it would have been nice to have a discussion of how each service handles security.
  • might I suggest...

    "" for access to Sysinternals tools
    I just create a favorite on all my devices.
    That way I am assured of accessing the latest versions.
    • can I put it on the PATH?

      It would be great if I could put that site on the path so that I could just run the current version from the command line
      • I'll find out

        I just asked Mark Russinovich the author of most of the tools. Just having a browser favorite doesn't work for me because most of the tools really need to be run from the command line.

        Maybe from PowerShell?
    • I'll be writing more on this soon

      I found out the right way to do this. I'll write a tip within a couple days
      • Yes, you can do it.


        You can put the live site on the PATH
  • Data Security

    Thanks for this nice and very useful comparison. I am missing a word regarding data security and confidentiality. I have looked at Google Drive in Spring 2012 (or however it was called before) and they mentioned something like "they have all rights on documents you store in the cloud". Upon a request I have sent to Google customer service regarding this I never even received an answer. I believe this is an important aspect.
  • SkyDrive won't show Shared Files

    I actually like SkyDrive but the problem I have with it is that the desktop app only shows your own, personal files. If I share a file or folder with you, that is only accessible via the browser interface. There is no place in the desktop app on Windows (or Mac, as far as I know) to access the shared files. The shared files are only available via the browser.
  • Google Drive vs Google Cloud Storage

    I'm not interested in large access from multiple points, but I'd really like a large (1TB and growing) cloud backup solution. So looking at these, how is it that Google Drive (a syncing solution) is CHEAPER than Google Durable Reduced Availability Storage The first TB of Storage is $.063/GB/month, while The first TB of Drive is $.05/GB/month. I would expect the syncing of Drive would make it more expensive than Storage with its reduced availability.
    big red one