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[Windows] Best free cloud storage service — Dropbox vs Google Drive vs SkyDrive vs SugarSync vs Bitcasa

Posted By William E. On July 21, 2013 @ 8:35 AM In Windows | 36 Comments

Ever wanted to be able to access your files from any computer or device? Or maybe you wanted to be able to have a backup of your important files, in case of a computer or device crash. Or maybe you want to be able to easily share files with others. Whatever the case may be, what you need to solve your woes is a cloud storage service.

In a nutshell, cloud storage allows you to upload content from your local hard drive (whether that be a computer or mobile device) to a remote storage location — over the internet — known as the cloud. This content or data can then be accessed from practically anywhere were there is a device with access to the internet and a web browser, and from any type of device. You can also share files on cloud storage with others.

To help you decide on what cloud storage to use, we have written this review to find the best free cloud storage service. So let’s get to it.

This review is part of our Best Free Windows Software [1] section. Check out more articles on the best free Windows programs by clicking here [1].

BEFORE WE BEGIN

Before we begin, there are a few things I would like to point out.

Firstly, the whole idea behind cloud storage is the ability to access files on the cloud from anywhere and from any device. So while this review focuses on cloud storage services from the perspective of Windows users (i.e. cloud storage services that have Windows clients), all the cloud storage services reviewed here are accessible via the web from any modern internet browser from any type of computer or operating system. And all of the cloud storage services discussed are accessible via their websites using any modern web browser and have clients/apps/programs for other operating systems also, such as Linux, Mac OS X, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.

Secondly, upload/download speeds were not taken into consideration as part of today’s review because all of the cloud storage services discussed are very fast and the speed you get relies heavily on your connection speed and where you live.

Thirdly, please note that all of the services reviewed here are great. In fact, one could argue they are all largely the same with very few differentiating features. As such, for this review we have chosen not to rank one as the “best” — they are all great services, and we have not ranked one better than the other.

Lastly, take note privacy and security of files and data is always an issue regardless of which cloud storage service you use. All cloud storage services will make promises as to how they store your files securely but, as NSA PRISM leaks have revealed, your files are never truly secure on cloud storage if you don’t encrypt the files yourself. So when using any cloud storage service, be sure to use free file encryption for cloud storage programs [2] to ensure your files are safe and secure.

Table of Contents [Dropbox vs Google Drive vs SkyDrive vs SugarSync vs Bitcasa]

Dropbox

Dropbox screen [9]Program Name: Dropbox [10]

Developer: Dropbox

Download Size: 33.3MB

Version Reviewed: 2.2.9

Free Storage: 2GB

Supported OS: Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Note: Dropbox is also available via the web on any modern internet browser and it has official apps/clients for Linux, Mac OS X, Android, iOS, and BlackBerry. There are unofficial Dropbox apps on Windows Phone.

Discussion

Dropbox has become somewhat of a household name and is extremely easy to use. Simply create an account, download the windows agent and you are well on your way.

Another wonderful aspect of the program is that it is cross platform, so whether you are using a mac, a mobile phone or a linux machine you will have access to your Dropbox files.

The way Dropbox operates is very simple. Once the client is installed a Dropbox icon is placed in the system tray. This icon shows the status of synchronization of files and shows progress of uploads. Right of left-clicking on the icon will cause a list of recent uploads to be displayed as well as links to the local Dropbox folder as well as to the Dropbox website. Access is also given to the client’s settings and from there users can set their desired location for their local Dropbox folder. Any file which is stored in this local folder is uploaded to the cloud and accessible from a wide range of devices. The general rule is once it has a web browser, you can access your Dropbox files from it even without using the dedicated Dropbox application.

Dropox has powerful sharing options and users can share files/folders via email or simply through a link which the Dropbox client generates. It has applications for Windows, Mac, Ubuntu, Android, iOS and BlackBerry.

Dropbox also provides the ability to preview the following directly from within a browser:

Files that preview as an image:

  • .jpg and .jpeg
  • .png
  • .tiff and .tif
  • .gif
  • .bmp
  • .ai
  • .psd

Files that preview as a video

  • .3gp
  • .3gpp
  • .3gpp2
  • .avi
  • .mov
  • .mp4
  • .wmv
  • .m4v
  • .mpg
  • .mkv
  • .mpeg
  • .vob
  • .flv
  • .mts
  • .m2t
  • .ts
  • .dv

Although 2GB may seem like an inadequate amount of storage, Dropbox give users many opportunities to upgrade the amount of storage by sending referrals, through promotions, from using certain features and by using a .EDU address. I personally have curently amassed 28GB through referrals but a large part of this was gained through a Dropbox promotion known as the ‘Great Space Race [11]‘ which gave college students the opportunity to gain up to an extra 25GB which would last 2 years

Far from being overrated, Dropbox keeps on proving itself over and over again. It is a great choice for cloud storage.

Google Drive

Google Drive Screen [12]Program Name: Google Drive [13]

Developer: Google

Download Size: 29.70MB

Version Reviewed: 1.10.4769.0632

Free storage: 15GB

Supported OS: Windows 7, Windows 2000, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Note: Google Drive is also available via the web on any modern internet browser and it also has official apps/clients for Mac OS X, Android, and iOS

Discussion

This nifty little service and its accompanying windows client will have users jumping for joy when they realize that they can upload their files and even edit documents which were synced with Drive from their local computer from any other computer using the Google Drive Service.

Right off the bat let me just say that Google Drive offers 15GB of free storage — which is a lot. Take note, however, this 15GB includes space used by Gmail, Google+, and Google Drive [14]. So if you have an account with which you use Gmail and Google+, the Google Drive for that account will not have access to 15GB as Gmail and Google+ will be using storage; if you want the full 15GB for Google Drive, you will need to create a new account that does not use Gmail and Google+

Like Dropbox [3], installing this program places a folder on your computer through which you can sync files to the cloud. Once uploaded, users can choose to share or view or edit the file — depending on what type of file it is – from any device which has an internet connection. In terms of sharing, the Google Drive client lets you specify exactly who you want to share your files with – through a list of email addresses of you desire or you could just create a link to the download which is publically available. Users can edit uploaded documents using the Google Docs feature of Google Drive.

An interesting feature of Google Drive is the OCR option. Google Drive has the ability to scan a photo and read the characters from it but this can be very hit and miss.

Perhaps one of the best aspects of the Google Drive service and windows client combination are the abilities of the combo to allow for powerful collaboration on documents and the ability to view a variety of files just using your web browser even if you don’t have the prerequisite program installed. Below is the list of files supported for viewing directly from a browser:

  • Image files (.JPEG, .PNG, .GIF, .TIFF, .BMP)
  • Video files (WebM, .MPEG4, .3GPP, .MOV, .AVI, .MPEGPS, .WMV, .FLV)
  • Text files (.TXT)
  • Markup/Code (.CSS, .HTML, .PHP, .C, .CPP, .H, .HPP, .JS)
  • Microsoft Word (.DOC and .DOCX)
  • Microsoft Excel (.XLS and .XLSX)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint (.PPT and .PPTX)
  • Adobe Portable Document Format (.PDF)
  • Apple Pages (.PAGES)
  • Adobe Illustrator (.AI)
  • Adobe Photoshop (.PSD)
  • Tagged Image File Format (.TIFF)
  • Autodesk AutoCad (.DXF)
  • Scalable Vector Graphics (.SVG)
  • PostScript (.EPS, .PS)
  • TrueType (.TTF)
  • XML Paper Specification (.XPS)
  • Archive file types (.ZIP and .RAR)

In addition Google Drive allows for the preview of the following:

  • Google Docs
  • Google Sheets
  • Google Slides
  • Google Forms
  • Google Drawings
  • Image files (.JPEG, .PNG, .GIF, .TIFF, .BMP)
  • Raw Image formats
  • Video files (WebM, .MPEG4, .3GPP, .MOV, .AVI, .MPEGPS, .WMV, .FLV, .ogg)
  • Microsoft Word (.DOC and .DOCX)
  • Microsoft Excel (.XLS and .XLSX)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint (.PPT and .PPTX)
  • Adobe Portable Document Format (.PDF)
  • Tagged Image File Format (.TIFF)
  • Scalable Vector Graphics (.SVG)
  • PostScript (.EPS, .PS)
  • TrueType (.TTF)
  • XML Paper Specification (.XPS)

Google Drive has applications for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices.

Privacy and the security of the information you uploaded to the cloud is very important, and it many cloud storage services including Dropbox and Google Drive have had many an eyebrow raised at their policy pertaining to these two issues. (Remember, always use encryption [2].) However if you do not mind these issues, Google Drive is a great program and you should give it a try.

SkyDrive

skydrive screen [15]Program Name: SkyDrive [16]

Developer: Microsoft

Download Size: 5.75MB

Version Reviewed: 17.0.2011.267

Free storage: 7GB 0r 25GB

Supported OS: Windows 8, Windows 7

Note: SkyDrive is also available via the web on any modern internet browser and it also has official apps/clients for Mac OS X, Android, iOS, Windows Phone

Discussion

Microsoft’s very own cloud storage service it offers 7GB to newer sign ups but if you were one of the lucky ones who signed up for this service prior to April of 2012 you would have been given the option to upgrade to a whopping 25GB – if only.

SkyDrive functions similarly to both Dropbox and Google Drive with a local folder located on your computer from which any files that you place inside are copied to the cloud and accessible online from the SkyDrive website.

SkyDrive supports Microsoft’s office web apps and users will have the ability after upload to view, edit and create Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote documents directly from a Web browser. Skydrive also allows for collaborative editing of documents. Microsoft Office 2013 also has support for Skydrive and documents can be synced directly from within programs of the Office suite.

Microsoft’s cloud storage solution doesn’t stop there. It allows for users to embed documents directly onto web pages and is also integrated with the Outlook.com email service. It supports the viewing of .PDF, .ODF, .XML, OpenOffice and WordPerfect documents directly from a web browser in addition to Microsoft Office fomats. SkyDrive’s online service also allows users to search these documents with the exception of PDF files.

SkyDrive also boasts support with the Bing search engine, with social networks like Facebook, Twitter and linkedIn and it allows for the viewing of uploaded photos directly from within a web browser. Additionally entire folders stored with the SkyDrive service can be downloaded as a single .zip file.

Skydrive sports Windows, Mac, Windows Phone, iOS and Android applications.

If you are a big user of Microsoft Office, this service will suit you very well and it also gives you the most free storage on sign up. Not bad Microsoft.

SugarSync

SugarSync Screen [17]Program Name: SugarSync [18]

Developer: SugarSync

Download Size: 19.4MB

Version Reviewed: 2.0.1

Supported OS: Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Note: SugarSync also available via the web on any modern internet browser and it has official apps/clients for Mac OS X, Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, and Symbian

Free Storage: 5GB

Discussion

As you already know, there are many cloud storage service out there, but SugarSync sure makes syncing files to the cloud a breeze.

Simply drag and drop any folder you wish to sync to the cloud onto the specified area in the program’s desktop client and wait for the upload to finish. It really is that simple. The Windows client comes with an intuitive interface with 4 tabs. The first is the Cloud tab which displays all folders synced to the cloud and allows you to add any additional files.

Next is the Sharing tab. In this tab you can specify which folders you wish to share with others. The Activity tab displays recent activity such as the addition of files and the Search tab is pretty much self-explanatory.

SugarSync applications are available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone as well as Symbian.

What you won’t get in SugarSync is the ability to collaborate on documents that you get with services such as Google Drive and SkyDrive but you do get an incredibly easy to use program that quickly and easily lets you sync files to the cloud.

Bitcasa Infinite Drive

download_mobile [19]Program Name: Bitcasa Infinite Drive [20]

Developer: Bitcasa

Download Size: 23.5MB

Version Reviewed: 1.1.1.14

Free Storage: 10GB

Supported OS: Windows 8, Windows 7

Note: Bitcasa is also available via the web on any modern internet browser and it has official apps/clients for Mac OS X, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone

Discussion

Bitcasa offers users a large amount of storage to start with and will definitely make it easy for you to sync your data to the cloud.

On installation, Bitcasa adds icons to your desktop, to Windows explorer windows and to the system tray. Simply drag and drop things onto the Windows explorer or desktop icons to add files to the cloud.

Pure unadulterated storage is what Bitcasa offers and with syncing clients or Android, OSX, iOS, Windows and Windows Phone, you will be able to sync and access data from almost anywhere especially since you can also simply use any web browser to access information stored using Bitcasa. Bitcasa also claims to use AES-256 encryption to encrypt data and that no human is involved in the process on securing your files. Therefore on paper it is the most secure service but I cannot vouch for this in the least.

Bitcasa has Windows and OSX clients as well as mobile apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

For a free account of 10GB, Bitcasa is definitely worth a try.

Other Alternatives


Article printed from dotTech: http://dottech.org

URL to article: http://dottech.org/117601/windows-review-best-free-cloud-storage-service/

URLs in this post:

[1] Best Free Windows Software: http://dottech.org/best-free-windows-software/

[2] free file encryption for cloud storage programs: http://dottech.org/102851/boxcryptor-vs-cloudfogger-vs-cryptsync-3-free-cloud-storage-encryption-programs/

[3] Dropbox: #bf1

[4] Google Drive: #bf2

[5] SkyDrive: #bf3

[6] SugarSync: #bf4

[7] Bitcasa Infinite Drive: #bf5

[8] Other Alternatives: #alternatives2

[9] Image: http://dottech.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Dropbox-screen.gif

[10] Dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/install

[11] Great Space Race: https://www.dropbox.com/spacerace

[12] Image: http://dottech.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Google-Drive-Screen.jpg

[13] Google Drive: https://drive.google.com/#my-drive

[14] 15GB includes space used by Gmail, Google+, and Google Drive: http://dottech.org/108935/google-unifies-drive-gmail-and-google-file-storage-bumps-everyone-up-to-free-15gb/

[15] Image: http://dottech.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/skydrive-screen.jpg

[16] SkyDrive: https://skydrive.live.com/?

[17] Image: http://dottech.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/SugarSync-Screen.png

[18] SugarSync: https://www.sugarsync.com/downloads/

[19] Image: http://dottech.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/download_mobile.png

[20] Bitcasa Infinite Drive: https://www.bitcasa.com/download

[21] Amazon Cloud Drive: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=cd_def?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0&docId=1000828861

[22] Box Sync: https://www.box.com/download-box-sync/

[23] SpiderOak: https://spideroak.com/opendownload/

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