How to Choose Between Cloud Storage Services like Google Drive and Dropbox

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Jared Newman /

Cloud storage is in the spotlight this week with the launch of Google Drive and the relaunch of Microsoft’s Skydrive. Along with competitors such as Dropbox and SugarSync, you’ve now got lots of good choices for storing files online.

All these services work in pretty much the same way: You download a program to your computer, and it creates a dedicated folder, where anything you put inside gets stored online. Once you’ve done so, you can install the same app on another device to immediately access those files, or you can grab the files through any Web browser.

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With so many options available, which ones should you choose? Depending on your needs, the answer might not be as simple as who offers the most online storage space. Here’s a rundown of the best cloud storage services, and why you should consider using them:

Google Drive: For the Cloud Believers

Main features: 5 GB of free storage, cheap monthly rates for extra storage, 10 GB file size limit, tied into other Google services.

Google envisions a world where all of our computing happens online, and Google Drive is a big part of that. The service is already tied into Google Docs, and it probably won’t be long before it gets further integrated with Android and offered as a source for Gmail file attachments. Google’s Chromebooks will eventualy use Google Drive in place of local storage, so everything users do gets stored online. If you buy into that vision and trust Google to look after all your files, Google Drive is a no-brainer. Otherwise, it’s still a strong offering with generous file size limits and low monthly paid rates, starting at $2.49 per month for 25 GB.

Dropbox: For Everyone

Main features: 2 GB of free storage, apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android

Dropbox’s 2 GB storage limit now looks skimpy next to the competition, but the service’s incumbent status ensures that it’ll stick around. Chances are you already know some people who use the service, which allows you to easily share files with them. And because Dropbox isn’t beholden to any particular software platform, you can be sure that its many desktop and mobile apps will see continued support. If you’re syncing between several computers, Dropbox also has a useful feature called selective sync, which lets you disable local backups for certain folders. It comes in handy if you have a computer that’s low on storage, and don’t want to clog it with all your Dropbox files.

Microsoft Skydrive: For the Digital Packrat

Main features: 7 GB of free storage, the best annual paid rates, remote access to other PCs

SkyDrive’s 7 GB of free storage is more generous than any other service, and if you were already a SkyDrive user before April 22, you can get an extra 18 GB free for a limited time. On an annual basis, SkyDrive’s paid storage is also the cheapest, at $10 per year for another 20 GB. But the most useful feature of SkyDrive–at least for owners of multiple Windows PCs–is remote access, which allows you to grab files from any folder on another Windows machine, even if it’s not synced with Skydrive. Although Skydrive is a Microsoft product, official apps are available for Mac, iPhone and iPad, but Android users must seek out third-party apps instead.

SugarSync: For Peace of Mind

Main features: 5 GB of free storage, no file size limits, sync to any desktop folder.

SugarSync doesn’t have the most free storage or the cheapest premium rates, but it’s the only service that syncs with any folder on your computer instead of creating its own space on your hard drive. That means you can flag your existing documents folder, pictures folder or any other location, and SugarSync will silently make online backups of those files. If all you want is a way to automatically back up your most precious documents online, SugarSync does it with the least amount of effort.