Comparing the Top Cloud Storage Services

In a perfect world, there would be one cloud storage service that worked equally well for Apple, Android and Windows devices. It would have the capacity to save all of your photos, videos and documents in the cloud and show up-to-date copies of every cloud-stored item on your computer, smartphone and tablet. A feature commonly called synchronized, or synced.

In addition, this perfect cloud storage service would allow you to easily share photos, videos and documents with friends, family or coworkers. You could even craft and edit documents (collaborate) with others – from mundane guest lists to committee reports.

And of course, all of this would be available for free.

Instead, there are so many cloud storage choices, that it would be impossible to even try to compare them all here. According to a recent Cnet article, the most popular cloud storage plans are Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, Amazon Cloud Drive and Copy. I would add Apple iCloud Drive to that list.

To refine my comparison of this group of top cloud storage services, I won’t include Microsoft OneDrive, Box and Copy. They were developed for and are primarily used by businesses for employee file sharing.

Of the four remaining in our original list, Google Drive and Apple iCloud Drive are the most like my hypothetical perfect cloud storage service.

Google Drive is included with every Google account. You are given 15 GB of free storage and more can be purchased. Google Drive works well on Apple, Android and Windows, syncs photos, videos and documents automatically to all your devices and is the easiest cloud service to use for emailing attachments with Gmail. Its real power lies in its ease of file sharing and collaboration.

Apple iCloud Drive is the new file storage product included in the Apple iCloud umbrella of services. Formerly, iCloud could only sync and save Apple documents created with Apple software. Now, you can store any kind of file and access those files from Apple, Android or Windows devices. When you create an Apple account, you are given 5 GB of free iCloud storage to be used for any of the Apple iCloud services: iCloud Drive, iOS backups and the new iCloud Photo Library. It’s inevitable that most photo-heavy Apple users will run out of this free storage and then a decision must be made. Should you purchase more iCloud storage? If you do purchase more storage, Apple iCloud Drive is a good option for all the files you want to store in the cloud. Not just your photos. Unfortunately, file sharing and collaboration are not available yet.

In comparison, DropBox is a simply designed service that also lets you store any kind of file, but it falls short of the feature-rich Google Drive and photo management simplicity of Apple iCloud Drive. Amazon Cloud Drive is basically an off-site storage service without the file syncing capabilities of the other services reviewed here. Its key advantage is inexpensive backup storage for photos and videos.

 FREE STORAGESYNCINGCOLLABORATIONFILE SHARING
Google Drive15 GBYesYesYes
Apple iCloud Drive5 GBYesNoNo
DropBox2 GB up to 16 GBYesPaid plansYes
Amazon Cloud DriveUnlimited Photos & 5 GB for Prime SubscribersNoNoYes

I am often asked which cloud storage service is the best or, is it possible to use just one? The bad news is that there is no simple answer that will fit everyone. It depends on your reasons for using cloud storage and your willingness to sacrifice simplicity for savings.

  • Do you only want to save copies of all your photos and videos in the cloud or do you want your photos saved and synced across all your devices?
  • Do you need accessibility to certain documents from any device or location?
  • Do you need to share large files with others?
  • Do you want to collaborate on a document or spreadsheet with others?
  • Are you an all-Apple user or mixed between Apple and Windows?

I created the table below to help you decide.

 SAVE & SYNC
PHOTOS/VIDEOS
SAVE & SYNC FILESSHARE FILESFILE COLLABORATION
Simplest for Apple UsersApple iCloud DriveApple iCloud DriveGoogle DriveGoogle Drive
Simplest for OthersGoogle DriveGoogle Drive or DropBoxGoogle Drive or DropBoxGoogle Drive
Least Expensive for AnyoneGoogle DriveGoogle DriveGoogle DriveGoogle Drive

If you are an Apple user, you will spend about twice as much for cloud storage with Apple iCloud Drive as with Google Drive, but we’re only talking about a $10/month difference at the 1 TB level.

 STORAGEPRICE
Apple iCloud Drive20 GB/200 GB/500 GB/1 TB$.99/$3.99/$9.99/$19.99 per month
Google Drive100 GB/1 TB$1.99/$10 per month

After a lot of trial and error and analysis, these are my recommendations for cloud storage services:

  • If you use two or more Apple devices and you like to take photos on your iPhone/iPad and keep lots of those photos, then Apple iCloud Drive is the simplest solution for your photo management. If you need to share or collaborate on files, use Google Drive for those.
  • If you only use one Apple device, it’s probably worth the minor inconvenience to set up Google Drive for storing and syncing your photos as well as sharing and syncing all other types of files.
  • If you are all Windows and Android devices, Google Drive is the best.

A Simple Explanation of Cloud Storage

A client recently asked me to explain cloud storage to him. He knew that cloud storage exists on computers in locations other than your own computer and that your files can be saved and accessed in cloud storage via the internet. But, due to the growing number of different cloud storage options, it has become a confusing concept for many of us. I will do my best to explain what it is and how you can make use of it.

What is cloud storage?

My very basic definition is a place where your computer files (photos, music, documents, spreadsheets, etc.) can be securely saved on unknown computers (servers) and accessed via the internet.

Who offers it?

From internet providers to shopping sites, all kinds of online companies are offering free cloud storage to their customers. And they hope that when you run out of the free cloud storage, you will find that you cannot live without it and will purchase more. The best-known services include Google Drive, Amazon Cloud Drive, Apple iCloud Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox.

Where is it located?

Well-run cloud storage companies have data centers, sometimes called server farms, in multiple locations around the world. Optimally, they store all of your files across many computers in different locations with additional backup and security measures rigorously maintained. If a disaster occurred and completely destroyed a companies’ data center, then a backup or duplicate set of your files would still be on computers at a data center in another part of the world.

How is it used?

Cloud storage is used just like the hard drive on your computer, except that the files are saved on some other computer in a data center and you must have an internet connection to access them. The popular cloud storage services I mentioned earlier easily function as an additional hard drive for your files.

Why use it?

I use cloud storage for four reasons:

  1. To save space on my own computer. There are some documents I don’t have to keep but I want to keep them for a while. Therefore, I upload them to one of my cloud storage accounts and delete them from my computer.
  2. To share certain files with others. Sharing files eliminates the need for emailing attachments back and forth! Any changes made to a shared file are immediately visible to everyone in the sharing group.
  3. To backup my computer files. I use an online backup service that automatically backs up my photos, documents and music in its private cloud storage.
  4. To have my files easily accessible from any computer or mobile device with an internet connection. This is my main reason for using cloud storage – synchronized, immediate access to my data, wherever I am.

Is it secure?

There is no computer or cloud storage service that is 100% secure, even your own home computer. But, you can do your best to select the services that state their security practices and are successful enough to be able to fund the expense of a top-notch digital defense. Once you’ve selected a cloud storage service, you must do your part in protecting your data with a strong password to your account.

I understand that cloud storage is a technical concept that makes some people uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Next time, I will compare some of the best-known cloud storage services and why you might choose one over another.

ios 8: The Disappointments

In my last article, I described some of my favorite improvements to the iPhone’s new operating system called iOS 8. This week I’ll share some of the features that disappointed me and begin an explanation of the new iCloud Drive.

Siri

When I first heard that iOS 8 would let me voice-activate Siri with a simple “Hey, Siri…” I was super excited. I use Siri a lot for dictating text messages, placing phone calls, finding phone numbers and directions. Rather than holding down the Home button to activate Siri, I could just see myself telling my phone on my desk or car console what I wanted it to do.

Alas, it’s not to be. “Hey, Siri” will only work if your iPhone is plugged into a power source. I’m a plug-my-phone-in-when-I-go-to-bed kind of person. I certainly don’t plug and unplug it as I go about my day. Until Apple fixes this restriction, “Hey, Siri…” will only be useful in the car for people who plug their phone into a car charger each time.

Health app

Another much anticipated feature was the new Health app. Theoretically, it can monitor your health and physical activity, share that information with other apps or even a health care provider, and provide emergency contact and medical information in case you are incapacitated.

It’s a great idea but requires a lot of manual user input for things like nutrition and calories and multiple apps or equipment for “automatically” measuring activity, fitness, sleep and vitals. It’s too complicated for most people to get all of that working properly together. If the upcoming AppleWatch is able to do most of the physical monitoring and Apple makes it seamless to connect that information with the Health app, then it will become incredibly useful.

iCloud Drive

Are iCloud and the new iCloud Drive the same thing? No, and yes. iCloud is the storage service Apple has been providing for iPhone/iPad backups and certain types of documents. While most people have tried to stay within the iCloud’s free 5 GB of memory, more storage could be purchased at an expensive price. (As a reminder, Apple’s Photo Stream, iTunes purchases and any shared photo albums don’t count against that free storage.)

Apple’s new iCloud Drive is a service that has been added to iCloud. What’s different about it is that you can now store any type of document or image in iCloud Drive and access it from any device as long as that device has the correct application to open it. Once you need more than your original free 5GB of iCloud space, you can pay a monthly subscription for more. It’s very similar to Dropbox but a bit more expensive. If you like Dropbox, I’d stick with that service for now.

As with so many new technology products, just wait a bit. I believe you will see these “features” improved and perfected in the coming months.

Need to backup your computer? Here’s how.

We all know it.

We’ve been told many times.

Everyone should be backing up their computers.

In our house, we’ve been backing up two iMac’s automatically to an Apple external hard drive called Time Capsule. It works great, but I’ve never felt that it was much of a backup solution. Here’s why. It only takes one power surge, even with surge protectors, to fry every computer and the Time Capsule. I won’t even think about a whole house disaster like a fire!

Imagine how you would feel if something or someone caused you to lose all your digital photos and computer files.

If the thought makes you feel slightly nauseous or even suicidal, you need a better backup system.

There is nothing 100%, guaranteed secure. Major disasters can happen. But an out-of-your-house-or-office copy of your files, encrypted and in the cloud, is a simple and safe solution. And it is finally an affordable solution!

Let me quickly explain the difference between Cloud Backup and Cloud Storage. Read more

How to Share Multiple iPhone Pictures

One of the delights of having an iPhone is being able to share photos with others – either directly through a text message or email or by posting to a website like Facebook or Pinterest. It’s quick, easy and fun.

But what about sharing groups of photos from a vacation at the beach or a grandchild’s birthday party? We often don’t share many of those because we think we have to send the pictures one at the time and therefore, it’s too cumbersome.

It’s simple to share groups of photos with friends by using the “mysterious” Photo Stream. What is Photo Stream? It is Apple’s free cloud storage to save a copy of every picture you take with your iPhone or iPad. How many photos can it hold? Apple will save up to 1000 of your most recent photos in your own Photo Stream. How do you copy your pictures to Photo Stream? It happens automatically through a setting on your iPhone or iPad.

To automatically copy your iPhone/iPad pictures to your Photo Stream as you take them:

  • Touch Settings iCloud.
  • Touch Photos.
  • My Photo Stream should be ON (green).
  • Photo Sharing should be ON (green) to share pictures with others.

Shared Photo Streams are additional Photo Streams that you create and invite friends you’ve chosen to view or save the shared pictures. These sharing friends can even add their photos to this shared Photo Stream for you to see or save. These shared Photo Streams can each hold an enormous number of pictures and do not count as part of your 1000 picture personal Photo Stream limit.

I created a shared Photo Stream of my family’s Christmas get together in Charleston and shared it with my cousins, aunt and uncle. One cousin has added his photos from our reunion to my shared Photo Stream. I now have copies of his pictures and he has copies of mine, pronto! Of course, the other cousins, aunt and uncle can see all of our combined photos from that day and download the ones they want.

This is how you create a shared Photo Stream from your iPhone or iPad:

  • Touch the  icon.
  • Touch Albums in the bottom right if it’s not highlighted blue.
  • Touch Camera Roll, My Photo Stream or any other album containing the pictures you want to share.
  • Touch Select in the top right.
  • Tap each photo that you want to share. A blue checkmark will appear on each one.
  • Touch the icon in the bottom left.
  • Touch iCloud.
  • You can enter a comment or not.
  • Touch Stream. You can choose a different Stream than the one automatically selected or New Shared Stream to create a new one.
  • If you select an existing Stream, touch Post.
  • If you create a New Shared Stream, you will enter the contacts with whom you are sharing in the “To:” field. If you select email addresses, your contacts will be notified by email. If you select cell phone numbers, your contacts will be notified by an alert on their iPhone.

To view or change the contacts in an existing shared Stream:

  • From the same Photos app, touch Shared in the bottom middle.
  • Touch the shared Stream you want to view or change.
  • Touch People on the bottom right.
  • To add more contacts, touch Invite People…
  • To remove a contact, touch the contact’s name and Remove Subscriber at the bottom.

Speaking of photos, for those of you who use Mac computers and would like to learn how to create and share beautiful iPhoto Slideshows, I have an online class beginning January 24. It’s self-paced from your home and I will be available to answer any questions. More info and registration through www.liberateyourtime.com/iphoto-slideshow-registration.

Catch up and Keep Up with Technology!

Catching up and keeping up with technology requires some effort when you first begin and a willingness to learn and change as products evolve, but it is the key to staying current and having a frustration-free digital life. The foundation for achieving your digital bliss is synchronization. If you can get your devices synchronized in the following three areas, you will amaze yourself!

1) Mail, contacts, calendars and notes Read more

Getting Your iPhone (or iPad) Ready for iOS7 – Part 1

The introduction of two new iPhones and a totally new operating system for the iPhone is always a great time to do some housekeeping with your old iPhone (and iPad). You may not be upgrading to a new iPhone anytime soon, but you will be needing to upgrade your iPhone’s operating system which is called iOS to the new version iOS 7.

Before you begin any iPhone housekeeping, backup your device through iCloud, iTunes or both. That way, if you accidentally delete something important, you can restore your phone to its “pre-cleaned” state.

iCloud backups are the easiest because they happen wirelessly. iCloud backups are stored “in the cloud” on Apple’s iCloud servers. With an iTunes backup, you will need to connect your iPhone to your computer. iTunes backups are saved to a file on your computer.There are reasons for choosing one over the other, and for backing up both ways.

iCloud is wonderful for having your iPhone back up automatically, every day, whenever your device is connected to Wi-Fi, power and is on the Locked screen. If you’re like me, and not in the habit of connecting your iPhone directly to your computer each evening, you can rest assured that your data is getting backed up if you set up automatic iCloud backup. Because iCloud’s free storage plan is 5 GB, it is not a good option for backing up photos and videos if you store more than 1- 2 GB of them in your iPhone. (You can pay for more storage.)

How to set up automatic iCloud backups

On your iPhone/iPad:

  • Touch Settings > iCloud.
  • Scroll down and touch Storage & Backup.
  • Touch Manage Storage.
  • If you have multiple devices listed under Backups, touch the one you are currently using.
  • Under Backup Options, you will see the amount of your iCloud free storage that will be used beside Next Backup Size.
  • Touch Show Apps to see how much data each app is storing.
    • You can select to not backup data on an app by app basis, which I only recommend for advanced users who are backing up certain apps separately.
    • Camera Roll usually takes up the most memory, so you may want to save some of those photos to your computer and delete them from your iPhone/iPad now. Or, if you’ve set up your Photo Stream to automatically save on your computer or PC (and you backup your computer), you can turn off Camera Roll backup.
  • Go back by touching Manage Storage > Storage & Backup in the top left.
  • From the Storage & Backup screen, touch iCloud Backup ON.
  • Touch Backup Now.

iTunes is another way to backup your iPhone and if you regularly connect your phone to the computer, it’s a good method. You can also set up your iPhone to wirelessly backup through iTunes, but it’s a bit more cumbersome for most people. Your iPhone can be set to to only one method for automatic backups: either iCloud or iTunes. I recommend using iCloud for your daily automatic backups and a weekly manual backup through iTunes because it saves the backup on your computer.

How to set up weekly iTunes backups

On your computer:

  • Open iTunes.
  • In the top menu bar:
    • On a MAC: click on iTunes and then Check for Updates…
    • On a PC: click on Help and then Check for Updates…
  • Update iTunes, if your version is not up to date.
  • In the top menu bar:
    • On a MAC: click on iTunes again and then Preferences…
    • On a PC: click on edit and then Preferences…
  • Click on Devices
  • Check the box for Prevent iPods, iPhones and iPads from syncing automatically
  • Click OK.
  • Connect your iPhone to your computer with the iPhone’s USB cable.
  • Click on your iPhone in the left sidebar, under Devices. (If you don’t have a sidebar click on View > Show Sidebar in the top menu.)
  • With the Summary tab selected, look at the Backups box.
    • Under Automatically Back Up, select iCloud if it’s not already selected.
    • **Optional: Select Encrypt iPhone Backup if you want all your account passwords included in the backup. I recommend doing this if you have lots of apps with logins, but you do have to create a password for your backup file. Pick one you will remember!
    • Under Manually Back Up and Restore, click Back Up Now.

  • When the backup is finished, click on the eject symbol beside your iPhone in the left sidebar and disconnect your iPhone from the computer.

If you know how to use Siri, Reminders and Alerts, tell Siri something like this:

“Siri, remind me to backup my iPhone in iTunes every Sunday at 8pm.”

That will help you remember your weekly iTunes backup!

Watch for the rest of my iPhone housekeeping tips soon!

Google Drive vs. iCloud – How to Use Them

Please go to my updated article comparing Google Drive and iCloud!!! Comparing the Top Cloud Storage Services

There are many products which offer “in the cloud” storage for saving your digital files and photographs. “In the cloud” storage means you are saving your files on a server accessed via the internet instead of on your own computer. It frees up your own memory, gives you access to those files from multiple devices anywhere in the world, and keeps those files backed up.

Two very popular companies, Google and Apple, both offer “in the cloud” storage for their users. With Google, the storage is called Google Drive. Apple cleverly calls theirs iCloud. Both are extremely useful, but for different applications.

Google Drive is an amazing free service. Every Gmail address shares 15 GB for email, Google Drive and Google+ Photos. Additional storage may be purchased. Read more