Apple iCloud Drive
As an Apple user, you’d have heard of iCloud, but we don’t blame you if you find it confusing. It’s Apple’s own cloud-based storage system, and if you own an iPhone or iPad and have an Apple ID, you’ll have 5GB free storage.
It is the easiest way for those bought into the Apple ecosystem (users of iPhone, iPad and Mac) to sync contacts, notes, files, photos and more across devices.
iCloud Drive is also an app that lets users see into the file system on iOS, something Apple has always avoided doing on mobile devices but one that is entirely necessary for such a service.
We like using iCloud, but we also pay for it. Most decent cloud services require you to pay a small fee.
Amazon Cloud Drive
Amazon’s cloud drive has got better recently. And works across Mac and iPhone. A free download, it gives you three months of unlimited storage on all files. The free 5GB is the same as iCloud, so you don’t need to go for Amazon if your after more free storage than Apple’s default service.
Its simple interface is reminiscent of Dropbox, but its simplicity might put off mobile users if you want to subdivide folders. It’s best used for backups and easy cross-device file access as opposed to a full suite to store important files on as a primary source.
Box is primarily focused on its paid-for business accounts, which provide a wide range of additional features for larger organisations. There are a variety of different options available, including version-tracking controls, and tools for online collaboration and project management.
Sharing is obviously important for business users, and Box gives you great control by allowing you to specify preview, editing and downloading permissions for all your files.
If you want to share between a small team it’s only £3.50 per month per user, but for solo file storage it’s not the best option as it’s so focussed on collaboration. Businesses will appreciate the focus on security though.
Like Box, Dropbox has geared itself toward business use. Users must pay a minimum of £10 per month per user, but this gets a very good 2TB of storage, extended file recovery, granular user options and decent security.
The free version is great for consumers, but only offers 3.5GB free compared to iCloud’s 5GB, so it might only be worth it if you really need the extra storage.
One useful feature is a little pull-down menu in your Mac’s main toolbar, which allows you to monitor your files as they are uploaded, and you can also set Dropbox to automatically upload photos from your iPhone or iPad, or even to upload your entire iPhoto library for safekeeping.
It’s also possible to share specific folders with friends or colleagues, although this process is a bit tedious.
Google Drive has grown into a very mature file saving and sharing platform, and is our recommendation if you don’t want to use iCloud for whatever reason. Free app downloads for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android lets you log in and stayed logged in to all of your devices.
Drive works excellently on a Mac, letting you save directly into it via the file system rather than using a separate app. Upload time is good, and base storage starts at 15GB, three times as much as iCloud.
Sharing links to files, albums and more is very easy, and the simplistic but intuitive user interface is more friendly than most of its competitors.
It also plays nice with Microsoft, Apple and Google file types. It is the best all round cloud storage for consumers, though businesses should look to Box or Dropbox for more secure collaboration.
You can pay £1.59 per month for 100GB storage, and can go up to 10TB if you really need to.
Microsoft’s OneDrive comes as part of a Microsoft Office plan, be it one-off install or Office 365 subscription. The base yearly Office 365 pricing included a huge 1TB of OneDrive storage though, and is great if you’re fully bought into Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.
You can buy OneDrive without Office from free, but again we wouldn’t recommend this if you have iCloud as it’s only 5GB free. £1.99 per month gets you a generous 50GB, but again does not have the service’s full feature set. Its file directory design is more user friendly than iCloud’s though
It should be the number one choice for Office users, especially users of Mobile Office. But for those not using Office, there may not be enough features to be attractive, and Google Drive does a much better job of working well with different file types.