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How to simplify overlapping cloud storage services

Joe Kissell | Nov. 11, 2014
There's no shortage of choices for cloud storage, but that leads to another problem: how do you decide which services you truly need, and which files to put where? If you've signed up for as many cloud providers as you have files, it's time for an intervention (or at least a moment of clear-headed contemplation).

There's no shortage of choices for cloud storage, but that leads to another problem: how do you decide which services you truly need, and which files to put where? If you've signed up for as many cloud providers as you have files, it's time for an intervention (or at least a moment of clear-headed contemplation).

I'll admit it: I'm an online storage junkie. At one time or another I've synced files to the cloud using Amazon Cloud Drive, Amazon S3, Bitcasa, Box, DollyDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, SpiderOak, SugarSync, Wuala, and probably a few others I'm forgetting — not to mention using online backups from Backblaze, CrashPlan, and Mozy, and storing photos with services such as Flickr and SmugMug. Some of these services are free (at least for a limited amount of data) while others are inexpensive, but inexpensive times a dozen or more starts to hurt. Meanwhile, I had the same folders syncing to three or four services simultaneously, which slowed down my Mac, wasted bandwidth, and tested the limits of my ISP's monthly data transfer allowance.

The challenge was what to do about it. "Just pick one!" you may say. Fine, but if I pick Dropbox, then Google Docs can't see my online files. If I pick Google Drive instead, then my iOS apps that support only iCloud won't have access. And so on. Companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft benefit when you stay within their respective ecosystems, so they tend to make it easier to use their own cloud storage services than those of their competitors. (Microsoft's recent decision to integrate Dropbox support in its Office apps for iOS — supplementing OneDrive — is a welcome exception.)

Even if interoperability weren't a problem, it's not as though these various cloud storage services are otherwise interchangeable. Each one is different when it comes to matters such as privacy and security, saving older versions of files you've since modified or deleted, APIs for integration with third-party products, storage limits, and pricing.

Each person's needs and preferences will vary, but I'd like to offer some tips based on my own experiences in simplifying cloud storage.

Look for broad compatibility

Whatever else you might say about Dropbox, far more apps support it than any other cloud service, particularly on iOS. (It's also quite inexpensive, which doesn't hurt.) Perhaps the scale will tilt toward iCloud Drive at some point, but even if that happens for iOS, Dropbox works on more platforms, including Android and Linux.

So I use Dropbox as my all-purpose cloud storage provider, and probably will for the foreseeable future. If you prefer to use, say, SugarSync for general-purpose cloud storage and all the apps you care about happen to support SugarSync natively, that's terrific — but the odds are against it.

 

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