Cloudy Forecast

In this edition of our monthly Gadget column, we examine cloud storage.

Cloudy forecast

Dropbox

www.dropbox.com

In the digital age, we need something a little more secure than condensed water vapor to handle our gigabytes of vacation photos and unfinished novels. Dropbox, one of the oldest cloud storage services, is a versatile option offering file sharing and storage. Your first 2 GB are free, but unless you’re constantly deleting content, you’ll see those fly by quickly. For $9.99 a month, you can up the allotment to 50 GB, which will cover most people’s needs. Businesses can nail down 1 TB for just under $800 a year. Dropbox isn’t the cheapest option, but it has a great user interface across multiple platforms, such as web browser, PC and mobile devices. The PC program looks exactly like any other folder on your computer, and sharing for files or entire folders is done through email invites. One odd thing is that it’s complicated to share a subfolder without sharing a parent folder. The versatility makes Dropbox a great option for people who want to curate family photos, but more advanced users might want to drop Dropbox for a more sophisticated approach.

SugarSync

www.sugarsync.com

SugarSync doesn’t boast as clean a design as Dropbox but it offers integration with Outlook, Facebook and Twitter. The first 5 GB are free with monthly fees for 30 GB ($4.99), 60 GB ($9.99), and 100 GB ($14.99). The company also offers business plans, such as three users and 100 GB for $29.99 per month. Aside from being able to post photos and videos directly to Facebook, SugarSync also allows you to stream your uploaded music on mobile devices. The UI may be a little rough for less tech-savvy users, but the service is supported across almost all platforms including the usual suspects, as well as Windows Mobile, Blackberry, Kindle Fire and Symbian. More importantly, SugarSync offers versioning—the ability to ‘revert’ to older versions of a saved document—an option Dropbox charges $40 per year for, and the ability to upload files of any size, whereas Dropbox may place a limit on file sizes depending on what platform you’re using to upload the files. Tech-friendly folks should satiate their storage sweet tooth and risk cloud cavities with SugarSync.

Google Drive

www.drive.google.com.

Google recently jumped into cloud storage service with Google Drive, a service that integrates with many existing apps, such as Gmail and Picasa. On the surface, Google Drive appears to be an expanded version of Google Docs, which, while it’s not meant explicitly for file sharing and storage, can easily meet those needs. The most exciting feature of Google Drive is the ability to search files, including photos, with Google’s Optical Character Recognition software. Though it’s still not accessible to everyone, Google Drive offers cheap monthly rates: 5 GB (Free), 25 GB ($2.49), 100 GB ($4.99), with up to 16 TB for businesses. Opponents are concerned with Google’s privacy policies. Essentially, Google has full rights to view and use your data across Google apps, though they claim to only use it for good—and Dropbox and SugarSync share similar policies. It’s important to remember, cloud storage isn’t an impenetrable safe; it’s a safe owned by someone who rents out the space and keeps a spare key for themselves. Make sure you trust the curator.