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Cloud Storage Comparison – 2014 edition

You’d think you had this all figured out – there’s your Dropbox and Google Drive and OneDrive and… wait, that’s one too many already. Recently I have noticed that my paid-for 100GB of Dropbox space is over 80% full. There’s a folder with PSD images from my photography thing, there’s backups of web sites, both live and gone, there’s documents, receipts, some e-books I am reading, a few backups of software I may or may not need. I keep getting more and more of these – mostly photography, but other stuff as well. Backups of forms from our laser hair removal business. Clients’ backups. Clients’ digital assets and raw files. Clients’ photography – both RAW and edited. It looks like I’m gonna need a way bigger boat.

Before I started looking I had my own ideas and desires. First of all – I wanted to minimize the hassle of moving, so I was really looking forward to either stay with Dropbox or at least retain it in some form. I also have a huge collection of clients’ images on Picasa (including a lot of embedded ones) and I wasn’t looking forward to moving them around in any way. Last, but not least, I really wanted to like OneDrive – primarily because Microsoft bundles online versions of Office applications with it or grants additional 20GB of space should you subscribe to Office 365. Not everything came through, but I still was in less trouble than I thought.

First of all – I was not looking at free tier offerings. Given that I need to move around almost a terabyte of data I needed something better than a couple of gigs here and there. I also looked for a storage solution that won’t limit the size of the file – at least to a reasonable level, have been around for a while, allows sharing of files and whole folders, works on mobile and PC (I cannot imagine having another Mac in my household or business any time soon, so no iAnything for me as well) and allows multiple clients to work simultaneously (so I can upload stuff from my laptop in the field and get files on my home workstation – and vice versa). This eliminated most of exotic solutions (sorry, Mega.co.nz). Unfortunately, Box.com had to go as well due to their weird file size limits. Amazon S3, RRS and Glacier didn’t make it because their usability depends solely on the quality of the client you are using (and what happens when it gets discontinued?) plus their pricing is so through the roof I wasn’t even thinking about them. Some of the services I tried and ran away for various reasons – mostly because their client software lacks sanity, usability or both. What was left is in the table below. All prices are taken from each vendor’s web site on 6/4/2014.

Click image to enlarge

In order to compare these providers I got all their plans down into a single table, then calculated the lowest price per gigabyte per year. This way the comparison would make the most sense to me: if I were to buy a single gigabyte of space for a year at a most favorable price – what would it cost me.

The first place is shared between Google Drive and Bitcasa. No one comes close to their 12 cent per gigabyte. Additional benefits for Google Drive include easy sharing of photos from Picasa or Google+, small size images (under 2048×2048) don’t take up space, tight integration with multiple OSes and mobile systems and automatic upload of images from mobile device. With Bitcasa it’s a bit more complicated – although their pricing is just as good as Google’s – their support section is nonexistent and while I see a lot of happy reports on their services I have not seen them around long enough to put my files there (we’re talking about investing a lot of time to backup large amounts of data). They are also the only two providers with officially published prices for storage over 1TB – Bitcasa offers 5GB for $49/month and Unlimited for $100/month while Google doles out 10, 20 and 30GB for $100, $200 and $300 per month respectively. The only concern for Google’s storage is their uncertainty towards Google+ and the fact that Picasa hasn’t really been updated much.

Next in line, surprisingly, is 4Sync – not another big IT name, but these guys have been around long enough and their services make sense. They allow sharing of images and files, including direct link (although only for paid users), their sync client isn’t too complicated (although not without issues) and they are pretty generous on their free tier, so you can test the hell out of them. One the con side I’ve read about some issues with reliability and that does cast a shadow on their otherwise interesting offering.

Third place is (again) shared – between Microsoft’s OneDrive and SugarSync. Pricing is so very close that I decided that both deserve this position. OneDrive works pretty much the same way as Google Drive or DropBox, can sync across computers, backup current computer configuration and pull mobile device’s photos. The only (huge) problem with OneDrive is its inability to provide direct link to images for embedding – instead you’re getting an iFrame to embed and to click on. This, of course, is unacceptable for photo sharing and publication. SugarSync appears to be in the same boat, however, their advantage is that you can sync folders anywhere on your computer – not just a designated “dropbox” folder.

Runner-up to first three places is DropBox. Their $1 per gigabyte is one of the highest prices on the market. Embedding is possible, although requires some poking around links and features and, therefore, totally unacceptable if you want to publish a post with multiple images or if you want to build a gallery (and Dropbox’s own gallery view is extremely poorly designed which makes it practically useless). The sad part is that Dropbox has become a really robust and powerful solution, so it’s sad to see it losing the game due to price alone. Given that they are the least generous on their free tier offering I can see them losing out fast to many other providers.

The conclusion is rather simple, as far as my personal use is concern. In my case instead of 100GB for $100 that I am paying Dropbox I will be able to get a terabyte of storage for $120 from Google. My DropBox account expires some time in November so I expect to fully migrate all assets into Google Drive by then. It’s rather convenient that I won’t have to move 200+ albums of images to another provider, but everything else (all 80-something gigabytes) will have to be moved. I would still take advantage of OneDrive by migrating my documents there to be able to edit them using Online Word, but it’s a tiny chunk of a pie anyway.

But We Already Have A Web Site, What Do We Need A New One For?

The small business owners just don’t get it. We, the technical types, can hype ourselves about HTML5, Flash, patterns, interactivity, social features, geolocation and other cool buzzwords, but regular small shop owner couldn’t care less. They have enough on their hands to worry about, so why should they care about brand new web site if they already have “a web site”? Just because you want their money it doesn’t mean they are willing to give it to you.

Here’s what you can you, as a small business owner, should know about the web site and his business. First of all – even though you may not realize it, people are talking about your business. With the proliferation of the web sites like Yelp, Kirtsy and omnipresent Craigslist, there’s always somebody talking. As an example, let me tell you a little story of one of my remote relatives who owns a shoe repair business in Williamsburg.

One day he came back from work and told his family that one of his clients told him that someone somewhere on the internet posted that his business has closed. Family council have decided to take immediate measures and my number was dialed. I was told to fix the internet or whatever was saying that his business is closed. As you can imagine – I was thrilled at the task of fixing the whole internet on such a short notice. As it turned out – it was nothing more than some weird check box on Yelp’s web site that anyone can tick signifying that business has closed. Of course, there’s no way for Yelp to verify that, so they have just gladly accepted it – just like they did accept my correction of this. In just a click of the mouse the internet was repaired and continued to go on as usual.

As I have read, with much amusement, the business already had quite a few reviews. Most of them discussed the pricing structure – or rather a lack of one. A few more things here and there that I thought my relative should have known about – and I was ready to bring the happy news back to him.

What this boils down to is this – now matter how small your business are, in this day and age, there’s something online about your business. If it’s not your web site – then it’s someone else’s rant about your business (not necessarily a happy one). If, after such a rant, your potential client will see a web site that was designed by an 8-year old, that potential client will never become a real one. A few years ago you only competed for customers’ attention amongst your competition, but you always were. Now you’re competing against a number of sites that hold numerous reviews and ratings, people’s blogs and tweets and whatever else. Keeping up with all that flow of information with old and antiquated web site is just impossible.

Sprout: The Online WYSIWYG Editor for Flash

Sprout is a browser-based, WYSIWYG editor for Flash with an interface reminiscent of Photoshop or Dreamweaver. Designers can use it to create, publish and track Flash widgets, websites and mashups, thereby obviating the need for them to work with programmers who would cost time and money, and who might not execute designs satisfactorily.

original | digg story

Unfortunately the service is still in closed beta, so I was not able to use it firsthand. However, the potential for it (as I derive from the video) is high. If my clients would be able to mash something up in such editor to show me how they want their flash animation to be done – just this would save us a lot of cost and time.

Can’t wait to try it myself.