If you want to store your photos, music, videos, or other personal data online, there is certainly no shortage of available cloud storage choices to pick from. As Microsoft and Google battle for cloud storage supremacy, the customers win, but you have to do a little homework to determine which service is the right one for you.
Microsoft recently raised the bar again for its OneDrive cloud storage. It bumped the free OneDrive capacity from 7GB to 15GB, and announced that all Office 365 consumer accounts will receive 1TB of OneDrive storage, just as it announced in April for Office 365 business accounts. The move basically catches Microsoft up with where Google already was. Google provides 15GB of free Google Drive storage, and users can buy up to 1TB of storage for $10 per month.
At Google I/O this week, Google responded to Microsoft’s news by unveiling new Google Drive for Work plans with unlimited data. The Drive for Work plan costs $10 per user per month. That is less than the $15 per user per month (or $150 per year) cost for Office 365 Small Business Premium, but twice as much as the $5 per user per month Office 365 Small Business plan, which is more of an apples-to-apples comparison with Drive for Work anyway.
In addition to the unlimited cloud storage capacity, Google also added a number of features and controls to Drive for Work that make it more appealing—and more on par with Microsoft’s OneDrive for Business. IT admins can control which employees are allowed to install the desktop sync client, and audit file activity to monitor when files are moved, deleted, or shared. Drive for Work also improved data protection with encryption at every stage—in transit and at rest, and boosted the productivity value of Drive for Work by rolling the functionality of QuickOffice into the Google Docs apps to make it easier to open and edit native Microsoft Office files directly from within the equivalent Google app.
You can get similar tools and features from Microsoft for half that amount, though. With Office 365 Small Business each user gets access to the online versions of the Microsoft Office productivity tools (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.), plus online meetings and HD video conferencing through Lync, Exchange email account, and 1TB of OneDrive for Business storage for $5 per month.
Alternatively, for roughly the same amount Google is charging for Drive for Work, businesses can purchase Office 365 Small Business Premium instead. Office 365 Small Business Premium has all of the same features as Office 365 Small Business, but also includes the complete desktop version of the Office 2013 Professional productivity suite (or whatever the most current version of the Office suite is), and Office for tablets so users can use the Office productivity tools on an iPad or Windows tablet. At $15 per user per month, or $150 per user per year, it costs more than Drive for Work, but for organizations that are going to be purchasing Microsoft Office anyway it is the smarter move.
The unlimited data from Google is more or less a marketing gimmick—an effective one, but a gimmick nevertheless. Microsoft found in a recent study that three out of four users have less than 15GB of personal data on their PC. For all intents and purposes, 1TB is the same thing as unlimited for almost every user. In fact, Microsoft should just match Google and call its 1TB “unlimited”.
The “right” cloud storage option for you also depends on your PC and mobile platform choices. While you can technically use OneDrive from an Android device, or Google Drive from a Windows PC, the different ecosystems are increasingly integrated into their respective cloud environments. OneDrive is tightly woven into Windows and Windows Phone, and Google Drive forms the backbone of the Chrome and Android operating systems.
Cloud storage is becoming somewhat of a commodity, and your decision should be based on more than just price per gigabyte of storage capacity. Aside from the cost of the cloud storage, you should consider how and where you plan to use it, and how well the various cloud storage options integrate with the PC and mobile devices you use, as well as the office software you need to get things done.
Tony is principal analyst with the Bradley Strategy Group, providing analysis and insight on tech trends. He is a prolific writer on a range of technology topics, has authored a number of books, and is a frequent speaker at industry events.