2021 Best Cloud Storage | Dropbox vs OneDrive vs Google Drive vs iCloud vs Box vs Mega

February 01, 2021 |

Welcome back to another What the Tech post! Where we answer your tech questions. Coming Atcha just like Cleopatra, this is the 2021 Update to my previous post, to answer the question of What is The Best Cloud Storage for 2021. So if you are wondering which Cloud Storage service you should be signing up for, be that Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Apple iCloud, Box, or Mega – then we’ll be answering that exact question right now. And if you’re not already aware, late last year, Google announced some pretty significant updates to their Cloud Storage, essentially removing their unlimited storage options and increasing the price for cloud storage, so if you’ve seen that and you’re wondering what you should be doing, then again, stick around.

Firstly if you are new around here, Hi my name is Pete Matheson, and my background is in IT. I’ve run my own IT Business over the last decade, I sold that Business in March 2020, and I’m now coaching other IT Business owners – so I know my way around cloud services and particularly cloud storage. If this is your first time here, welcome! Great to have you here. And if you’re interested in more posts and videos around tech, investing and running your own business then consider hopping over to my YouTube channel and subscribing for more! Oh, also on that note – a huge thank you to Sondela Consulting, Frank McPoyle, Domas Araminas and Rhenier Labuschagne who recently clicked the Join button underneath this video post. Super grateful for your support and looking forward to chatting with you more.

While you’re reading, make sure to let us know which cloud storage you’re considering or perhaps using right now, let me know if I’ve not covered one and I’ll try to include that in the next one, and also if you have any technical questions then I will do my best to respond to each and every comment.

To prevent this post going on for hours, we’re taking a look at the offerings from Google, Microsoft, Apple, DropBox, Box, and also Mega, because I had quite a few comments on the last one asking me to cover them – so here you go! And I’ll leave links down below iat the end of this post for all of the cloud providers that I’m talking about.

A quick note that I won’t be covering Amazon AWS, or Google Cloud Platform which are generally meant for the more enterprise, or at least the more techie’s amongst us, so just to cover that off for those wondering why I’m not including them. Perhaps again, comment below if you think I should do a separate post to compare against those and I will see what I can come up with, but this post will already be far too long for most people.

In terms of the key areas we’ll be covering, we’re looking at:

Pricing

User Experience

Sharing

Backup and Retention

Data Location or Sovereignty

and Reliability, because 2020 was THE year to test the reliability for all of these services right. Let’s talk all about the first contender today – and that is Microsoft OneDrive!

MICROSOFT ONE DRIVE

Microsoft OneDrive is both a business and consumer product, with Microsoft bundling OneDrive into pretty much all of their online plans.

When it comes to pricing, well, nothing has changed here at all. For personal, you still get 5GB for Free, can upgrade to 100GB for $1.99 or £1.99 or pay $69.99 or £59.99 per year for 1TB.

Over in the Business world, you get a 1TB OneDrive with most of the paid for plans, and since you may already be subscribed to Microsoft 365 for work, then you already have this at no additional cost.

Now I did have quite a few comments on my last post, which if you’re interested in going back in time you can watch here, which were saying that OneDrive is crap and never works, crashes, slows the machine down – but honestly, I’ve never had this issue, or at least, not recently. Years ago, yes, OneDrive was a pile of turds. But today, it’s been solid. Both on Windows, Mac, Mobile – everything! For User Experience, it runs on pretty much anything, INCLUDING the new Apple M1 range of processors. 

One area I didn’t cover before, and it was requested in many of those same comments – is block level uploads. What are block level uploads? With block level uploads, only the changes made to a file need to be uploaded. For example, you work on a large video file and make a tiny change. Well just that change will get uploaded to the cloud. Because without block level uploads, then it would have to upload that entire large video file again.

And the answer to this question is YES, OneDrive does do block level uploads on all file types, something which they introduced around April last year. So if you are working on a file, you hit save, then only those changes are getting sync’d to OneDrive.

A few further points to mention, you have one single Client to install that works for both Business and Personal accounts. And you can sign into multiple accounts without any issues. They also have a Files on Demand feature, which is enabled by default, which only downloads files that you have recently accessed to save space on your machine.

For those Business customers, It’s also integrated with all of the Microsoft 365 Suite. So you can get to your files from any of the multitude of 365 applications, multiple people can work on the same files at the same time and see edits live if you work in-browser, and platforms like Microsoft Power Automate can be used to totally automate the creation and movement of files.

A few kind of issues to mention.

OneDrive does have a maximum file size limit of well, currently 100Gb, but by the end of March 2021, they should have increased this to 250Gb. Which, to be honest, fixes one of my biggest issues with this platform, because last time I reviewed this less than a year ago, the limit was a measly 15Gb, which is impossible when you work with video files all the time.

When it comes to sharing, as you’d expect – you can share the files and folders with anybody, internal, external, and yes, those without a Microsoft account can even edit.

You can set dates for when this access expires and you can set a password to access which is neat for security.

From a backups perspective, OneDrive is NOT a Backup for your files, OneDrive is not Backed Up itself, and Microsoft 365 is NOT backed up. Please pay attention to this, if you are storing valuable files in OneDrive, then you must make sure it’s backed up, certainly for business. Though for most people using it for Personal items, you are probably relatively safe – but take that with a pinch of salt, as there’s still a chance you may lose everything.

Microsoft has resiliency and redundancy. If one of their datacenters blows up, then your data will be served from another copy in another location. If you delete some times and then don’t realise for 6 months, there’s little to nothing anybody can do if you don’t have them backed up elsewhere.

Microsoft even state it in their terms and conditions when you sign up – that you need to find a third party tool to back up your data. For Data sovereignty – you can check where your data is stored by going to the Office 365 Admin Center, go to Settings > Org Settings > Organisation profile > Data Location .

But generally speaking – your data will typically be stored in the country you sign up from.

In terms of reliability, well – 2020 really was the year to test just how good and reliable all of these cloud services were. And to be honest, I don’t think Microsoft fared that well.

To give each company a fair fight, I’ve basically done a Google News Search for Outages to see what comes up, as well as dug into the status pages for each of these services to try and marry up some outages.

And for Microsoft, 2020 wasn’t a great year.

January 2021, Outage.

December 2020, Office 365, SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams – All Down.

November 2020, Outlook.com, OneDrive and Xbox Services – All offline

October 2020, Offline. In fact, an outage happened 3 times in 10 days!

And, I don’t really think I need to go on because – that history, and so recently too – is just abysmal. From such a large company as Microsoft, you’d think they would have figured this thing out by now. Surely!?

GOOGLE

 

So in the everything Google world, there are a tonne of changes to talk about. And yet still we have the confusion over the products. Googles cloud storage is called Google Drive.

 

However, they still have 3 different clients to download. For Mobile, you download Google Drive. Nice and simple! But on desktop, for Personal users, it’s Google Backup and Sync. For Business users, you can use either Google Drive OR something called Google File Stream. But for all of these, you still get to it in a web browser by drive.google.com. And if you download the wrong client and try to sign it, it won’t tell you that you’re in the wrong client.

 

IT JUST MAKES NO SENSE!

 

Personal bug bear aside, onto Pricing. Much like Microsoft, there are 2 tiers of pricing. Consumer, and Business.

 

Consumer pricing falls under something called Google One and Business is Google Workspace, which used to be called GSuite. For most of us using Google One – we’re talking

 

15GB for Free.

 

100GB for $2 or £1.59 per month

 

200GB for $3 or £2.49 per month

 

2TB for $10 or £7.99 per month

 

They also do some higher tiers for tens of Terabytes, but over on Google Workspace, and using their introductory pricing:

 

30GB for $6 or £4.14, 2TB for $12 or £8.28, 5TB for $18 or £13.80 or if you desperately need Unlimited storage on Google, then now you have to upgrade to their Google Workspace Enterprise Standard tier at $20 or £18.30

 

Back to looking at User Experience, and I think Google are both the strongest and weakest here. They have, by far, the best client – in my opinion, of all of the ones that we’re reviewed. Spoiler alert. Though, apply a pinch of salt here as I am very much living in Apple Fanboy world so my opinion is probably skewed. Though I have just bought a Google Pixel 4 and am trying to switch to this for a couple of weeks – so, if you want to laugh at an Apple Fanboy trying to switch to Android, subscribe to the channel when that one gets posted!

 

But anyway, you first have to decide which client you want to use because of all of that confusion. Google Drive, Backup and Sync, or File Stream.

 

For those of you using File Stream and the new Apple M1 Silicone Processors – You are fresh out of luck right now. It’s not supported, it won’t work, and there’s no official word from Google on when it will be available. I’ve seen rumours that it’s next month, but also that it’s in the last quarter of this year. So, time will tell. The workaround for that, is to use Backup and Sync, which does work!

 

But providing you can install it – both Google File Stream and Backup and Sync are by far one of the most reliable apps I’ve used before. I don’t recall any times when the sync has jammed up or crashed or anything. And that includes when I’m uploading hundreds of gigs worth of data, or tens of thousands of files.

 

So firstly – the differences.

 

Google File Stream, which is for businesses only – essentially just mounts your Google Drive folder to your computer, and then only downloads the files that you access. Much like OneDrives Files on Demand feature.

 

Whereas Backup and Sync will sync selective folders to your computer, and you can also use it to backup your desktop, downloads and other folders on your computer – using it as some kind of backup. More on that in a sec.

 

When it comes to block level uploads, which allows you to work on large files and then only upload the small changes instead of having to upload the whole large file again, Nope. Google does not do this. So if you need that feature, then right now you need to look at one of the other contenders. Which is a real shame as if Google had that, it would quite possibly have won this if it was a competition.

 

When it comes to sharing – you can share internally and externally including letting people who don’t have their own Google accounts, edit those documents that you share.

 

As far as backups go – Once again the same story as Microsoft, in that Google Drive is Not Backed Up. If you are a Google Workspace user, they guarantee that they can survive the loss of an entire datacentre, but outside of that they have a short window of 25-30 days for being able to recover any accidentally deleted files.

 

If you aren’t a business user, then Google suggest you contact them so they can help you find your files. Which basically means they want to break the bad news to you in person, since it’s not backed up. Over now to Data Sovereignty, and to start with – Google doesn’t provide any facility to choose, or determine where your actual data is located. They state that their data is replicated throughout multiple locations for resiliency – so they’re not as transparent as Microsoft. But just a reminder that both Microsoft’s and Google’s offerings are fully compliant with the likes of GDPR, PCI DSS, Healthcare and other regulations – of course with that said, you’d be best to double check any specifics if you need to be legally compliant.

 

And finally, onto Reliability. And I mean, my God – you don’t really have to try hard to beat Microsoft in terms of uptime right now right?

 

Errr, except in December 2020 there was an Unprece…. no not that word. Slight hiccup for Google. Which knocked out pretty much every google service, including YouTube and other Google Services in it’s entirety for almost an hour. Which – almost an hour, I mean, that’s not actually that bad! It’s nice to switch off from time to time eh?

 

There was an outage reported in the US in September 2020 which lasted for a number of hours

 

Another one in August 2020

 

A small one in March 2020

 

One again in January 2020

 

So, not perfect for sure – But definitely far better than Microsoft if we look at pure reliability.

 

And not to make excuses for Microsoft, or Google – but we all know that 2020 was a pretty unique year – and between Google and Microsoft they pretty much run every business, every school, every personal inbox for everybody in the world. So whilst I can at times be super hard on them with everyone else waving their hands in the air with how shoddy their service has been at times. They’ve also had to deal with this global pandemic, scaling their systems at a rate that hasn’t been seen before – and no, I won’t use that word.

 

So whilst I can be hard on them for their outages, I’d hope that my 2022 cloud storage review will be much quieter in terms of overall outages.

 

APPLE iCLOUD

 

Now, Apple iCloud is something which will only appeal to Apple users, I’d like to think that is fairly obvious.

 

200GB for $2.99 or £2.49 per month or 2TB for $9.99 or £6.99 and user experience is pretty flawless, providing, of course, that you are on an Apple device.

 

It seamlessly integrates with everything that’s in the Apple ecosystem. Photos, video’s, music, backing up your mobile devices, and all of your files and folders too.

 

I can’t comment just yet on comparing this with Google Drive and Android’s integration, but if you are interested then do subscribe to my channel as I’ve just bought myself my first Android phone after being 100% iPhone for the last Decade – so that’s going to be an interesting one to make a video on!

 

But back to Apple, and again, credit where credit is due – the integration is flawless as you can just pick up any device and your data is there. Spot on Apple.

 

Some limitations though in general – Block level sync isn’t offered, so any changes to large files will require that whole file to be uploaded again. And also there is a file size limit of 50Gb. So for those of you storing large video or media files – this one probably isn’t for you.

 

When it comes to backups, it is impossible to reliably and automatically back up your files on iCloud. Apple also hold no information on any retention periods for how long they’ll keep your deleted items, which basically gives you little to no option to recover anything.

 

Oh and also from a data location perspective, you will have no clear idea where your data actually is. In a nutshell, it’s stored on other cloud services such as Amazon AWS and Google Cloud, but you cannot tell if your data is held in a specific location.

 

Which, leads me on to reliability – and because iCloud sits on top of other cloud platforms, it makes it an interesting one. At the time of writing this post, there was a report 3 weeks ago, right at the beginning of January of an outage.

 

Another outage in November 2020

 

One in September 2020

 

August

 

July 2020

 

Another in June 2020

 

Which sounds quite bad – but, there wasn’t anything earlier than that, and I will say that these outages, whilst they were reported via Google news, often affected a smaller subset of users, and often affected just say, access to iCloud Calendar rather than the actual storage. So take those outages with a pinch of salt – because they are definitely not as dramatic as those outages from the likes of Microsoft and Google last year.

 

DROPBOX

 

Pricing starts from Free for just 2Gb of storage, $9.99 or £7.99 for 2TB and $19.99 or £13.99 for 2TB of Shared Family storage with 6 users included – Interesting to see a family option there!

 

For Business, then you’re looking at a single user with up to 3TB at £16.58 per month, and then for teams you have an options of either $12.50 or £10 per user per month for a minimum of 3 users and 5TB of space, or $20 or £15 per user per month again for 3 users but this time with Unlimited space.

 

All those prices are all based on paying Annually, so if you want just monthly payments then it’ll cost you another 15-20% more.

 

User experience is actually really great! Again, I’ve had no issues with any uploads or downloads, crashing, slowdowns – nothing over the years. And Yes, Dropbox also has Block Level File uploads – so if you open a huge file, make a small change and then save it – it will only sync that tiny change instead of having to re-upload the whole file all over again!

 

It also has a Smart Sync function, which downloads only the files that you need to store locally, which is available on all of their paid for plans.

 

Sharing works well as most of the other apps – but if you want to share a folder then every person will need a dropbox account, even if it’s just the free version. And shared links are view-only so if you want the best experience, it’s basically best to make sure both sides have a dropbox account of some form.

 

Over to backup and recovery, and we finally have a contender! For any of the paid accounts, Dropbox gives you 30 days actual, real life backups AND version history, with the business plans all giving you 180 days. So this is by far the best solution if you are looking for somewhere that does actually back up your data as part of what you pay them. Maybe Microsoft or Google could take a leaf out of Dropboxes books!

 

One thing to note here though is that on the free tier, their website states that you get 30 days file recovery and version history, but then you CAN’T recover from ransomware or mass deletion accidents using their rewind feature. But to be honest, just 30 day backups are great to have here considering it’s free!

 

Where does Dropbox store your data? The US, and sometimes in Germany, Australia and Japan. Sometimes. But if you are a Business Enterprise user then you can request to store your data in Europe only to meet those pesky GDPR regulations.

 

And then we come to reliability. That old pesky reliability thing, that’s got Microsoft, Google, potentially Apple, all weak at the knees. And for Dropbox, well – nothing! Literally, nothing!

 

I searched Google News for Dropbox Outage.

 

Nothing.

 

One Article from 2014 came up, but I couldn’t see a single report of a news worthy outage in 2020! Incredibly good going right there!

 

Checking their own website status page, it does show a minor blip of 10 minutes in December, a minor outage of less than 30 minutes in August. Less than 15 minutes in March.

 

So, I’d say that’s pretty strong right there!

 

BOX

 

Pricing for Box starts at Free for 10Gb, and then £8 for 100Gb for the personal plans.

 

Over in Business land we’re talking £4 for £100Gb, and a ridiculously cheap £12 for Unlimited but with a minimum of 3 users needed for all business plans. They also have some higher tiers which give you some more options, API calls, file version history, integrations and more enterprisey stuff.

 

Again and just for those business plans, those are annual prices, so add 25% if you want to pay monthy.

 

For User Experience, what about Block level uploads, where you just upload the small changes to files instead of the whole thing again – Nope. You don’t get this with Box.

 

And Box also has some pretty poor upload limits when it comes to file size. On the free personal plan, no files larger than 250Mb. On Personal Pro that’s increased to 5Gb. And even over on the Business plans, right up to their enterprise tiers, the biggest file you can upload is just 5Gb. So if you want to use Box then you’ll have to be pretty confident that you will never need to store anything larger than 5Gb.

 

Which in todays world could be, a 12 minute video shot on an iphone at it’s highest settings, a film, CAD drawings, and basically anything that involves graphic design or creative media. Sharing is a familiar likeness to dropbox. You can share externally, but everyone will need at least the free box account to use it.

 

When it comes to backups, Box takes a different and interesting approach. You get version history with all of their plans and there are, as far as I can tell, no time limits. So instead of getting say, 30 days worth of backup – you get anywhere from 1 to 100 versions. Which, I have to applaud if that is correct, is great and actually beats all of the other providers recovery options so far.

 

Answering that question once more of Where does Box store your data? It’s again, good news! For users in Europe, Asia, Canada or Australia, they give you the option to store data in your local area. That’s a check in the ‘That’ll do pig’ Box right there!

 

For reliability, and when trying to search for such a simple name like Box on Google – it’s possible to find anything accurate. But looking at their own status pages, we had an outage in January 2021 for half an hour.

 

October 2020 for 7 hours

 

And that was pretty much it for major outages! Again, I would say that’s pretty respectable.

 

Nothing like Google or Microsoft, but then again – I doubt Box have seen quite the scale of additional users that Microsoft and Google have had to deal with recently.

 

But overall – if you can live with the file size limits of Box, and that it doesn’t have block level sync – this looks like a pretty good option for an affordable storage solution. Would I pick it over something like Dropbox? Probably not, but it’s an option still.

 

MEGA

 

For Pricing with Mega, we’re talking 4.99 per month for 400Gb of Storage. 9.99 for 2TB, 19.99 for 8TB and 29.99 for 16TB. And all of that pricing is in euros, because that’s all they bill in.

 

Over in business land, they have one option of 15TB for 10 euros per month.

 

Something that stood out to me is that they seem to be positioning their storage as competing against Google Drive and Dropbox based on the size alone. And with their reasoning being that Dropbox and Google Drive don’t offer say, an 8Tb or 16Tb offering. I’d argue that Google at least offer more than just Cloud storage for that price too, but that’s a moot point.

 

And they kind of do compete as they have some unlimited storage options, but you do have to fight around signing up as a business for those types of accounts which can be a faff.

 

Another interesting concept here which I haven’t seen for quite a while now is caps on transferred data. For example on the 400Gb Storage tier you can transfer 1TB of Data per month, on the 2TB then you get 2TB of transfer bandwidth.

 

Is it a problem? Probably not for most people – but the fact they have that cap would seem to indicate it was a problem for them at some point. Based on my understanding of Mega and some nifty googling, I believe Mega has historically been used to help people share pirated content, movies, tv shows and music, so it was a case that someone would just basically use Mega to host a very cheap unlimited download service – thus the caps, which then makes perfect sense.

 

Privacy is one worth covering off here as Mega has privacy and security at the forefront of all of it’s marketing and all over the website. With Mega, your data is encrypted on your device – and Mega has no way to decrypt it, though it’s worth mentioning that I can’t find any third party audits or tests to really test this security and encryption.

 

But, what I did here was I delved deep into some Reddit discussions where Mega themselves got involved in the discussion and claimed that they don’t need an independent audit, because what they do share is the full source code of their client apps – so people can really look at the client code themselves to see how it’s dealing with all those privacy concerns.

 

In their own Security Paper, Mega state they are “a secure cloud storage and communication platform with user-controlled end-to-end encryption. End-to-end encryption means that no intermediary – not even MEGA – has access to the user’s encryption keys and therefore the stored data. MEGA is currently the only major cloud storage provider supporting browser access to end-to-end-encrypted cloud storage.”

 

So from a security perspective, this looks like a really strong contender, and they also seem to be pretty active on their own Subreddit and willing to answer questions and get stuck into discussions – which I always think is great to see when these large businesses invest time to really talk to their customers.

 

A quick mention around those block level uploads, which Mega doesn’t offer. So any small changes to large files will require the whole file to be re-uploaded. Possibly only really an issue for you if you are constantly working on those large files and making small changes, and possibly with a poor internet connection too though in todays world of fast connections.

 

From a basic Sharing perspective, you can share with anybody, though if you want them to have any form of edit permissions then they’ll need their own Mega account.

 

Over to Backup and Retention, and there’s no clear information I can see about the data specifically being backed up, but they do have file versioning which stores older copies of files – though again, no real information on how many versions or for how long.

 

When talking about where Mega stores all of your data, it’s in Europe or in other countries which will satisfy your GDPR requirements. Though interestingly none of your files are stored in, or made available from the US. Other than that – as I’m not a user of Mega myself, it’s near impossible to find any reliability information. Searching for ‘Mega Outage’ of course brings up loads of posts about these ‘Mega Outages’ that all the others suffered in 2020, and Mega don’t have their own status page where you can see historic information. But I couldn’t see any reported issues – so, take that with a pinch of salt?

 

So in summary for Mega – it’s actually an interesting service with a very different approach to the big players in the market. So what I’m going to do is give Mega a proper and thorough test over the next few weeks, possibly months, and when I’m ready then I’ll post a full review on my channel – So make sure you’re subscribed for when that one goes live.

 

Summary

OK – so a brief summary and recommendations of what I think of all these different providers.

To summarise all of these different cloud providers and my thoughts and feelings, Let’s just run through them. And I’ll be sure to include links to sign up to each of the services in the description below – some of which I might earn a small commission on as a bit of a thank you for boring you to death with this long ass post. But it won’t cost you anything more, and in some cases I might actually be able to find some discounted links, so I’ll try and include those if I find them.

So – Summary.

If you already have a Microsoft 365 Account for work or you’re using Google Workspace for Work, then both of those come with some fantastic storage options and from a price perspective, then you’re best just using the built in storage which is great for both of those products, providing you can live with the outages we’ve seen across 2020.

If you’re fully in the Apple ecosystem, then iCloud is a no brainer for things like Files and photos – but I still wouldn’t choose to put ALL of my documents on their systems as the features you get with others such are so much better.

For a pure storage vs cost vs performance, then something like Dropbox really does become attractive, it’s feature rich with block level uploads and reasonably affordable too.

If you are security conscious, then perhaps take a look at Mega – again, I’ll try to get a full review of that in a separate post soon, so definitely subscribe for that.

Box – personally, in todays world I can’t see myself recommending any cloud storage provider that has a 5gb cap on files, and that’s even on their higher tiers. So unfortunately I’m going to have to take a pass at Box. But again, each to their own – if there’s something you heard that takes your fancy with Box, then of course – check it out! Just be aware of those limitations from the get go.

For me, Personally. I use a mixture of Google Drive, OneDrive and Apple iCloud, because I’m all about them Apples. And from my own experience they are all reliable, I’ve not personally been affected by any of the outages except the half hour Google Drive blip, which I can excuse. But I don’t see any particular issue around Dropbox, I just have no use for a fourth cloud storage product, which for me – pushes Box and Mega off my particular needs as my Google and Microsoft accounts are used for more than just storage, so it wouldn’t make sense for me to then go and pay yet another subscription for separate storage when it’s already included in my existing plans.

But your case might be completely different and I definitely wouldn’t discount those options – and like I said, review coming on Mega as that does intrigue me more!

That pretty much wraps us up here – If you liked this post then subscribe to the channel to catch those video’s around Mega and other tech things, give the video a thumbs up if you did, or if you didn’t, well I’m going to go and cut my own hair, because, Lockdown 2021 – so I’m going to stop talking now. Cya.

 

🛒 Sign up for Microsoft OneDrive: https://geni.us/hTzTYa

🛒 Sign up for Google: https://geni.us/700Q

🛒 Sign up for Dropbox: https://geni.us/YJalVv

🛒 Sign up for Box: https://geni.us/0TD3

🛒 Sign up for Mega: https://geni.us/79qWkwe