To say that the future is in the cloud is an understatement. Today, companies are relying on cloud services to run their businesses. Are you looking for an extra space to store your files? There's a service for that. Moreover, do you need a cloud server to backup your websites? There's a service for that too. Indeed, technology has brought us this far.
Armed with the Internet, you can send tons of files in seconds using any of the popular file-sharing services available today. But with the advent of the NSA scandal that shocked the world last year, many of us are beginning to doubt the security of these services. While it's true that technology has outpaced user privacy, the good news is that we still have a choice. There are many services out there. The secret is to pick the best ones.
Dropbox is the first service that comes to mind when you're thinking about a good file-sharing service. Founded in 2007 by MIT students Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, Dropbox now has over 300 million users around the world. Easy to use and fast, Dropbox offers a free account with a 2GB storage space. If you need more, you can go "Pro" and have 100GB for $9.99 a month, 200GB for $19.99 a month, and 500GB for $49.99 a month. Dropbox also introduced a business account that lets you collaborate with a minimum of 5 people at $15 per user a month, or $75 all in all with unlimited storage.
Sharing files on Dropbox is very easy. For example, if you want to share a photo with a friend, you can click that photo and input his or her email on the prompt box along with your message. You can also share folders by clicking the "Sharing" option on the left side of the application. Dropbox has apps on the iPad, iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, Mac, and PC.
Google isn't only known for its search engine and advertising empire. The technology giant is also popular for its productivity suite: Google Drive. What started out to be simple web-based word processor and a test product called Google Spreadsheets turned out to be one of the best "software as a service" office suites today.
Google Docs and SpreadSheets launched in 2006 to counter Microsoft's insanely-popular Office productivity suite. Six years later, Google Drive was announced, replacing Google Docs and SpreadSheets. Since then, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides were integrated into Google Drive. The result was phenomenal. Fueled by Google's cloud technology, Google Drive became the Microsoft Office of the web.
Google Drive now offers an ample storage space of 15GB for free. If you need more, you can get 100GB for $1.99 a month, 1TB for $9.99 a month, 10TB for $99.99 a month, 20TB for $199.99, and 30TB for $299.99 a month. Users can also install Google Drive on their PC or Mac to automatically save files, as with Dropbox and Box. To share files or folders, just click the "Share" button to access the link that can be shared with your collaborators. You can also invite people via email.
Indeed, the future of cloud computing is here, and it would be naive to exclude Apple on the list. When Apple launched iCloud in 2011, it gave its users the ability to synchronize apps and other user data with other Apple devices like the Mac, the iPhone, and the iPad. But it has its own limits. Unlike other popular file-sharing services, iCloud only syncs documents and files made with Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. In short, it didn't have the ability to share pictures, videos, and other files.
Enter iCloud Drive, Apple's answer to Dropbox and Google Drive. Announced at WWDC this year, iCloud Drive stores any type of file, whether it's a Photoshop file or a MS Word document. Even better, iCloud Drive saves the latest version of your documents so that you can continue working on them across all Apple devices - anytime, anywhere. You can even work on the same file on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad. However, iCloud Drive has yet to be launched this fall as an exclusive feature of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite.
According to Apple, iCloud Drive will offer a free account with 5GB of storage by default. Upgrading to a larger plan is surprisingly cheap: pay $0.99 a month for a 20GB plan, or $3.99 a month for a 200GB plan. With its cheap model, analysts are already expecting iCloud Drive to hurt competitors. While that may be true, it's important to note that iCloud Drive is specifically built for Apple users. Microsoft users, for example, are more likely to pick OneDrive or the ubiquitous Dropbox. In the end, it's all about "user preference."
In a bid to stay relevant, Microsoft rebranded SkyDrive - its cloud storage application - into OneDrive this year. Microsoft lost the right to use SkyDrive after the British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSkyB) filed an infringement case against Microsoft for using the word "Sky," a trademark owned by BSkyB, on its product.
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Microsoft needed a fresh appeal to the burgeoning market. OneDrive was the answer. Like Google Drive, OneDrive now offers 15GB of storage space for free. As a bonus for Office 365 customers, OneDrive gives an additional 1TB of storage. Do note that Office 365 users pay a specific amount to avail the service. On the contrary, Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides are completely free.
But, in fairness to Microsoft, its productivity suite has been constantly improving. Upgrading to a larger storage plan is cheaper too. At $1.99 per month, you'll get 100GB. Also, you can upgrade to 200GB for only $3.99. When it comes to file sharing on OneDrive, a quick click on the "Share" button at the top of the menu will immediately share files and folders to other OneDrive users, via an email invitation or a link. Microsoft has OneDrive apps for PC, Mac, Windows Phone, Android, iOS, and Xbox.
Founded as YouSendIt in 2004, the service boomed and amassed a following in the Silicon Valley. YouSendIt provided a unique solution to the limits of email: sending large files. But as the years progressed, YouSendIt struggled courting younger users. It didn't help when Dropbox and Box came into the scene. For CEO Brad Garlinghouse, YouSendIt needed a makeover.
YouSendIt rebranded as Hightail last year, hoping to attract the new generation of tech-savvy users. HighTail has a free plan which offers 2GB of storage. The "Professional" account offers unlimited storage for $15.99 a month, while the "Teams" plan offers unlimited storage to a maximum of ten users at $24.99 per month for every user. HighTail is also offering an "Enterprise" plan for businesses.
To send files on HighTail, click the "Send" menu and fill up the details below, similar to writing an email. After uploading the file, you can password-protect it to make it secure. Sharing files and folders with other users is also easy. Furthermore, the paid accounts have a slew of nifty features including the ability to track and password-protect files. Pro users can also decide how long can a file remain downloadable.
Leave out "drop" in Dropbox and you have Box, another popular SaaS cloud and file sharing service. However, Box isn't a Dropbox wannabe. In fact, it was founded two years earlier than Dropbox. Formerly called Box.net, its founders, Dylan Smith and Aaron Levie, specifically built the cloud content management system for businesses.
Like Dropbox, Box is also going public. The company already filed its S-1 documentation with the SEC, but it was forced to postpone plans due to weakening technology stocks. Box has four products: Personal, Starter, Business, and Enterprise.
The Personal account is free and it has 10GB of storage space. You can upgrade the account to store up to 100GB of files for just $10 a month. The Starter account offers a shared workspace for up to ten users at $5 per user a month. That includes 100GB of storage for each user.
At $15 per user a month, the Business account offers unlimited storage space to a minimum of five users. For power users, the Enterprise account costs $35 per user a month. File sharing on Box is also very easy. Simply click the "Share" option on each file or folder and share it via email or a link.
SugarSync is another strong contender in the world of file sharing. A byproduct of Sharpcast, an image synchronizing tool, SugarSync was officially launched in 2008. SugarSync lets users store, share, and sync files, photos, videos, and music across computers and mobile devices. It has apps for the iPad, iPhone, iPod, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone.
However, SugarSync recently ditched its free plan which offers a tad 5GB of storage - a letdown for many users. With its paid-only model, SugarSync offers a basic plan for individuals, costing $7.49 per month for 60GB of storage space. There's also a 100GB plan at $9.99 a month, and a 250GB plan at $24.99 a month. For businesses, SugarSync has a custom solution which is tailored to the specific needs of the company.
For the price, users get a powerful sharing tool that is fast and sleek. The user interface is also very clean. It's probably worth the money, but there are free alternatives out there. Sharing on SugarSync is easy. You can share public links, files, folders with other users on your team.
Amazon is perhaps the newest gladiator in the file-sharing arena. While the technology giant is considered to be a pioneer in cloud computing, its Amazon Web Services was too technical and catered to IT professionals and developers. Amazon attempted to challenge Dropbox and Box in 2011 when it launched Amazon Cloud Drive. Unfortunately, the service didn't really live up to the hype.
Although it's a good tool to store documents for reading on Kindle, it's slow and clunky. So when Amazon announced a fully-managed storage and sharing service this month, we took notice. Called Amazon Zocalo, the service is marketed as a collaboration tool for businesses. For starters, users can send files, comment on them, and upload multiple versions of a file without resorting to emailing multiple versions as attachments.
But what makes Zocalo unique is its capability to give IT administrators the option to integrate corporate directories, audit logs, and sharing policies. However, the service is still in Limited Preview. According to Amazon, Zocalo costs $5 per user a month with 200GB of storage. You can also purchase additional storage at a cheap price.
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