Many of us now spend our lives living on multiple devices – laptops, tablets, smartphones. Maintaining data, and maintaining consistency across the devices can be, and almost always is, a problem. Cloud storage services are here to our rescue though. They provide cross platform compatibility and are pretty handy for the obvious file sharing that most users sign up for. In fact, that was how Dropbox began – Drew Houston, the founder, would repeatedly forget his USB flash drive while he was a student at MIT. Now, cloud storage providers are increasingly becoming more important as this trend of multiple devices, and the need for seamless file sharing and access, increases.

At the same time, they are all fighting it out to be the dominant cloud storage provider for you, with different incentives, plans and features. Which one would you rather opt for? Here’s a comparison between Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft’s SkyDrive on different parameters:

Free Storage

Free Storage Online

All 3 – Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive – start with a certain amount of free space allotted to every user, which can be increased upon payment, with rates varying for each provider.

SkyDrive starts with the maximum amount of free space – 7GB. Google starts with 5GB, while Dropbox starts with the least – 2GB. You can however, considerably increase your Dropbox storage capacity – by referrals, beta testing, camera upload through your phone, and many other tweaks. Or if you happen to buy an HTC device, you start off with 25GB of space straightaway.

If you’re not planning to pay for your storage – SkyDrive or Dropbox offer the most value.

Paid Storage

If a few GBs aren’t enough, you can pay for additional space – 100GB costs $99 on Dropbox, $60 on Drive and $50 on SkyDrive.

Platform support

DropBox Drivegoogle driveSkyDrive

All three services are available on iOS, Windows, Mac and Android. SkyDrive, belonging to Microsoft, gets to be the only service to have an official app on Windows Phones, while Dropbox makes it to Windows Phone via a third party app. Dropbox has an edge here since it is the only one compatible with Linux and Blackberrys. So if you’re running any of these two – you know you have to go for Dropbox.

Synchronization

Both Google Drive and Dropbox offer options to choose which folders you would want synced to the cloud. SkyDrive’s application also lets you access your computer’s entire hard drive, thus giving you control over every file on it.

File Type Support

Any file type can be uploaded on to these cloud services – but you can only view file types that are supported. Keeping that in mind, here’s a comparison on file type support for the three platforms:

Dropbox doesn’t support any file type. All files must be downloaded and nothing can be opened online. It’s not a major issue though – if you’re using Dropbox on your phone – you can edit files right from your phone (via an editor ofcourse) and have them updated. The same would apply for your computer.

Google Drive supports unusual, and in a way, diverse range of file types – like Autodesk AutoCAD files, Photoshop (.psd) files, and even Adobe Illustrator files. But at the same time, it lacks basics. You can only view, but not edit Microsoft Office documents. All such files are converted to their Google Docs equivalent for editing. That can troublesome if you’re using a phone. I run an HTC Android, and am unable to edit any office documents via Drive. Since Google Docs can only be accessed online, there is hardly any offline usability. Serious disadvantage here.

SkyDrive, being Microsoft’s child, will let you open and edit any Office documents. There is even support for audio formats, but limited to MP4 and WMV only.

Online features

Dropbox limits online uploads via its website to a maximum size of 300MB, while there is no size limit while uploading through the desktop application. SkyDrive’s web version also limits file size to 300MB. Google Drive limits it to 10GB on both the web version and desktop application.

Google Drive brings its online Apps Suite with itself, which means you can edit and documents and files online without having to download them to your computer. SkyDrive comes with Microsoft Web Apps, which lets you edit Word, Powerpoint, Excel and OneNote files from within your browser.

Dropbox, being the oldest among the three, has more online presence than the other two. Its integration with Facebook Groups is also a big plus. Sharing files is simple – just share the link. Drive and SkyDrive offer more customization, letting you choose exactly who you would want seeing your files. The latest update for Dropbox for Android lets you share entire photo albums with a single link.

Summary

Dropbox:

Free Space: 2GB + referrals + camera upload + other features [upto 18GB]

File Size limit: Unlimited

Premium space pricing: $99/year for 100GB, $199/year for 200GB

Standout feature: Only cloud service for Linux and Blackberry. HTC handsets get you 25GB free.

 

Google Drive:

Free Space: 5GB

File Size Limit: 10GB

Premium space pricing: $60/year for 100GB

Standout feature: Wide range of file type support. Half as cheap as Dropbox.

 

SkyDrive:

Free Space: 7GB

File Size limit: 2GB

Premium space pricing: $10/year for 20GB, $25/year for 50GB, $50/year for 100GB

Standout feature: Only provider with official Windows Phone app. Impressive integration with Windows 8 and Windows Phones. Remote Access.

 

Verdict

Dropbox is the oldest of the three providers, and is thus more established. It is bound to attract more users thanks to features like referral, which earn you additional space. It is also the only service to support Linux and Blackberry systems. It even has passcode locks for its mobile apps. Although it charges higher dollar-per-GB, it offers a clean interface, is easier to use and integrates very nicely with your phone. In fact, I no longer have to sync my phone to my computer for photos as they’re on my hard drive within seconds of having snapped a photo through my camera, thanks to the “camera upload” option. Purchasing an HTC gets you 25GB of free space (25GB free for 2 years with HTC Sense 4.0, Sense 4+, and Sense 5.0 phones). If you own an HTC, a Blackberry or run a Linux – Dropbox is the place to go.

Google Drive offers support more file types which makes online sharing and editing much easier. It also offers more value for dollar-per-GB. Plus, if you purchase additional space, you get 25GB extra on to your Gmail storage. But the fact that you have to convert office documents to Google Docs before you can begin editing can be a big pain and could drive many users to Dropbox or SkyDrive.

SkyDrive gives you the most free space to start with. It also lets you remote access your PC online. SkyDrive belonging to Microsoft, it has a headstart in terms of targeting Windows users. SkyDrive integrates superbly with Windows Phone and Windows 8. Office 2013’s default file-saving location is your SkyDrive account. It may be termed an unfair advantage, but if you have a Windows Phone or have recently purchased Windows 8, SkyDrive is a pretty good option.

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