It feels like cloud services have plateaued. We’re all familiar with how Dropbox works and how documents are stored in Google Drive. We’re more than happy to work on them online rather than deal with local copies. Other than price drops in cloud storage and the ongoing privacy debate, nothing much has been going on.
Now that cloud storage has been popularized, it’s sometimes hard to tell which of the many services popping up is the best. Google Drive, Dropbox and SpiderOak are similar in a lot of senses. They give you a box to store your files, have iOS, Android apps, and web access to easily retrieve documents or previous version of them. They are free to start with, have paid options for added storage, and best of all, they are reliable.
So in this article I’ll focus on the differences rather than the similarities. And right now, it comes down to the cost, ecosystem, and privacy. Let’s get to it.
Cost To Space Ratio
Google Drive offers you 15 GB of free storage off the bat. But this is shared with all your Google services, including Gmail and Google+ photos (the high-res ones that don’t qualify for unlimited free storage). This means that if you’ve been harboring large attachment files in Gmail, it’s time to go on a cleaning spree.
Dropbox and SpiderOak both start you off with 2 GB of storage for free. Available upgrades are on the expensive side. While you can get 100 GB on Drive for $1.99 a month, the same costs $9.99 on Dropbox and SpiderOak. But Dropbox is pretty generous when it comes to giving space away. You can make a couple of gigs easily just by sharing the links, sending out the referral code or buying a phone with bundled cloud storage like Galaxy S5 among many others (50 GB storage for 2 years for free is the usual deal and Drive does this for handsets like Moto G as well).
SpiderOak however, doesn’t really like to play Oprah with their storage space.
Ecosystem And Services
Dropbox is your way out of the ecosystem rut.
When you’re buying hardware or software, what you’re really buying into is the “ecosystem”. Like it or not that’s the truth. So when you choose the privacy-first (SpiderOak over Dropbox) but then can’t connect with your favorite Markdown editor on iOS, you’ve got a problem on your hands.
Business users who work on the web will appreciate Google Drive’s productivity suite and the plethora of extensions and apps available. If you want something personal you can always whip it up with a script.
Dropbox is truly cross-platform and has by far the best integration with the cloud related services I’ve seen. When iOS 8’s integration comes in I’m sure Dropbox will be in there on day one, so will Google Drive. But Drive is still lagging behind with third party app integration. So before choosing your cloud service, check your app compatibility first.
Ever since the NSA story broke, privacy has been on everyone’s mind. The cloud especially has come under a lot of scrutiny. The problem stems from the fact that many users are still not completely familiar with how “the cloud” even works. To most, it’s a mystery.
SpiderOak is the only service in the list that has a “zero knowledge” policy. It means that the company doesn’t know what’s in your files and doesn’t have any access to it. Of course, Google and Dropbox encrypt your files as well but SpiderOak goes an extra step forward. The encryption key is user applicable. Meaning that when the feds come knocking at their door and demand your files, SpiderOak will hand it to them but as the encryption key is with you, they will need a warrant/permission from the government to swoop around.
Google Drive and Dropbox though won’t mind handing out complete access to your data to the proper authorities. More about that here. Of course, this doesn’t mean that SpiderOak is completely private and no one can ever get into it. But it’s good enough for Edward Snowden to use and that’s a man whose privacy advice is easy to follow.
But SpiderOak’s biggest problem is the lack of integration with big services. You can use it as a replacement for Dropbox for apps that run on desktop that have a file picker but not for mobile apps with tight cloud integration.
SpiderOak has structured their system in such a way that you can store all of your information on them with the same sort of features that Dropbox does, but they literally have no access to the content. So while they can be compelled to turn it over, the law enforcement agencies still have to go to a judge and get a warrant to actually get your encryption key from you. – Edward Snowden
So To Recap
- Dropbox for all ecosystems.
- Drive for the free storage and integrated productivity suite.
- SpiderOak for the privacy, but little else.
Last updated on 03 February, 2022
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