Cloud Storage Compared: Choosing the Right Online Storage

Online, or "cloud" storage has replaced the floppy disk as a way to share files, and it's also a handy way to back up files and sync them with your various computers and mobile devices. Here's a look at the various cloud storage services and what they have to offer. Read on to compare services and find the best storage solution for your needs.


Dropbox
One of the biggest names in online storage is Dropbox. Offering free, Pro, and Team accounts, Dropbox starts at 2GB (free) and goes up to 1TB (Team). Pro accounts offer 100GB of storage for just under $10 per month. But few people have to settle for the minimum storage; you can easily earn free storage by completing tasks such as going through the getting started guide, connecting your Twitter or Facebook account to Dropbox, inviting friends, and using Dropbox's camera upload feature on your phone.

Dropbox offers desktop and mobile options for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, BlackBerry, and Linux. The free apps can be found on Dropbox.com or in the respective app store. Once installed, Dropbox adds a folder where you can keep files in sync with the cloud (and your other devices). You can share specific files and folders with other Dropbox users as well. There's no size limit for file uploads, either. Dropbox also keeps a version history for every file stored with the service for 30 days.

Box
Box (formerly Box.net) offers free and paid accounts. Free accounts come with 5GB of storage. Sign into Box through one of the current promotional devices to receive a free upgrade of storage space -- up to 50GB. File uploads for the free account are limited to just 250MB, which increases to 1GB if you switch to a paid account. For $10 a month you get 25MB of storage, and $20 a month gets you 50GB of storage. Business and Enterprise accounts are available as well.


Box offers desktop apps for Mac and Windows, along with mobile apps for iOS, Android, BlackBerry 10, and Windows Phone. You can sync and share specific files or entire folders with fellow Box users. Box also allows you to embed a file in your website, and place restrictions on who can print or download an embedded file. Version history is also included with the free account, making it easy to recover changed or deleted files.

CUBBY

Cubby is a storage service offered by LogMeIn. Free accounts start with 5GB of space, and you can earn up to 25GB of free storage. With each successful referral, 1GB of space will be added to the user's account. Paid accounts start at just $7 a month for 100GB of free storage. There are no file upload limitations.


Free iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac apps are available to help keep your files in sync and provide access on the go. Unlike other services, Cubby allows you to "make any folder a Cubby," meaning you don't have to move files and folders around just to sync with the service. With a paid account, Cubby users get access to DirectSync. This feature allows you to sync unlimited amounts of data directly between computers, without counting it against your cloud storage allotment.


SkyDrive
SkyDrive is Microsoft's cloud storage service. It originally launched with 25GB of free storage, but new users get a more modest 7GB. There's no way to earn free storage. To increase your limit, you can subscribe for as little as $10 per year, upping your account by 20GB. Twenty-five dollars a year will get you 50GB, while $50/year gets you another 100GB. SkyDrive has Windows, Mac, iOS, Windows Phone, and Android apps available to keep your files in sync
Perhaps the most intriguing feature for SkyDrive is the ability to create and edit Microsoft Office documents using the SkyDrive website. There's no need for Office to be installed on your computer; you can create and edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote documents, then save them to your computer for free. You can then share the document with a public or private link, require the user to sign into SkyDrive before viewing and track who makes edits directly from the website.