5 popular options for cloud storage

Dropbox now competing with industry heavyweights

The explosion of mobile has had a tremendous impact on the real estate industry. Smartphones and tablets allow us to stay connected and access data whether we’re in the office, hosting an open house or on the road with clients.

But when it comes to storing data in the cloud, there are many choices available. All of the tech titans — including Apple, Microsoft and most recently Google — offer cloud storage products. Google recently introduced its new service, Google Drive, and I’ve spent the last week putting the app to the test.

Google Drive takes a different approach to cloud storage than the wildly popular Dropbox app, which features a simple way of storing and sharing files.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president of Chrome and apps, recently discussed with Liz Gannes of All Things D how Google Drive differs from the competition.

"Today, when I look at different solutions out there, those are still in the old metaphor of, ‘Here are files that you want, manage them,’" Pichai said. "This is about you living your life online — planning a wedding, buying a house — and having your data available in that context."

Google Drive is essentially an expansion — or better yet, a replacement — of Google Docs. It starts with 5GB of free storage and is available on Mac, PC and Android devices. The iOS app is coming soon.

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The application can be accessed through the desktop app or through a Web browser. I was impressed with its syncing functionality, although if you want to edit documents and spreadsheet files in the browser, they have to be converted to the Google Docs format.

Is Google Drive the right cloud storage app for your business and devices? Let’s take a look at some of the popular services available:

1. Google Drive:

Google Drive is a perfect application if your organization utilizes Google Apps (Google’s business platform that includes Web-based email, calendar, documents and more) or if you’re heavily invested in the Google universe. Google Drive also offers up to 16TB (terabyte) of storage. An initial 5GB of storage is available for free, with additional storage starting at $2.49 a month for 25GB. See pricing for storage plans here.

2. Dropbox:

Dropbox is one of the most popular cloud storage services on the market today. Founded by Drew Houston in 2007, Dropbox is a simple application for storing and sharing files. It works with Mac, Windows, Linux, iPad, iPhone, Android and even BlackBerry devices. An initial 2GB of storage is available for free, with pro plans starting at 50GB and 100GB. You can also earn additional free space by referring your friends.

Dropbox doesn’t have some of the more advanced features that other services offer, such as the ability to create new documents from within the application. But if you’re a longtime Dropbox user and have the app streamlined across your devices, I see no reason to make a switch. See pricing for storage plans here.

3. Amazon Cloud Drive:

Earlier this month, Amazon released its Amazon Cloud Drive desktop apps for Mac and Windows. Like Google Drive, Amazon Cloud Drive starts with 5GB of free storage, and includes a desktop client and a Web-based app for the browser. Amazon Cloud Drive is a good app, particularly for storing photos and music. However, it lacks the synchronizing functionality and the collaboration features that Google Drive and Dropbox offer. See pricing for storage plans here.

4. Microsoft Skydrive:

SkyDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage application. Unlike the other apps, Microsoft offers 7GB of free storage to start. The company also offers competitive pricing tiers for additional space. In fact, you can upgrade to 100GB of storage space for just $50 a year. If your business is powered by Microsoft, the app could be worth a closer look. Click here to learn more. View pricing for storage plans here.

5. iCloud:

The iCloud service is not a true cloud storage application. However, I decided to include the product because so many Realtors in my office are using it. The iCloud service stores your iWork (Keynote, Pages and Numbers) files, iOS apps and backups. It’s a perfect solution if you have created listing presentations in Keynote (Apple’s presentation software) and a must-have for Mac, iPhone and iPad users. However, if you’re looking for an all-purpose solution, give one of the previous apps a try. View pricing for storage plans here.

It’s a crowded marketplace for cloud storage services and the competition is just heating up. This is a good thing for consumers who should see attractive pricing tiers. These are just five popular services available. I’d love to hear if you’re using an alternative product such as Box or SugarSync. Leave a comment below and let me know.

Tom Flanagan is the director of information technology at Residential Properties Ltd. in Providence, R.I. You can contact him at tflanagan@residentialproperties.com or @tflan on Twitter.


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