‘Cheap and cheerful’ describes many of the online file backup offers available. However, what you save on subscription fees, you may have to spend in time and effort to compensate for functionality too basic for your needs. From a business standpoint, if you spend more money on a service, you may be able to make more money afterwards. However, time is one resource you can never recover. If you want to know what value one provider brings compared to another, you need a standard way of comparing them. Measures based on numbers may not tell the whole story, but they are often a useful starting point.
If your online file backup is limited to simple transfer of modest amounts of data without syncing or versioning, the amount of free storage may be a relatively important factor for you. Currently Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive, Amazon Cloud Drive, Google Drive and SugarSync all offer gigabytes of free storage (on average, about five). This certainly isn’t the most on offer. Chinese cloud provider Tencent recently announced ten terabytes of free storage.
Price per Gigabyte
On the other hand, things can look rather different once you start paying for the service. Storage prices can vary between different providers. In terms of the average price per gigabyte for a total volume of one terabyte, SugarSync and Dropbox are among the most expensive at over twice or three times the price of Amazon or Microsoft. Even if marketing experiments show that customers are willing to pay higher prices because they associate them with higher quality, there must be something more to explain this gap in pricing.
The consensus is that SugarSync and Dropbox both offer better user interfaces and better file management functionality across devices than their lower-priced counterparts. Online file backup, access, and syncing across different device platforms (including desktops and mobiles) are all part of the offering. Users also cite the potential to share large files between users (Dropbox allows an individual file size of up to 1 gigabyte).
Return on Investment
How these different online file backup solutions work for you depends on your particular requirements. College students with time but limited budgets may be happy to use entry-level or free solutions, although sharing large files such as video clips may be limited. By comparison, commercial enterprises who want their employees to be productive may see the value in paying for more advanced services. In this way they get data security and collaboration with less effort, and free up the time of their workforce for more profitable or strategic activities.
Other providers have specialized in online file backup and related services from the outset, without offering any initial free storage. Thus, CrashPlan+ for example, offers web-based restore, continuous backup and a 448-bit encryption level (many providers offer 128-bit or 256-bit instead). Backblaze imposes no file size limits: backing up a 100 gigabyte machine file is (theoretically) possible. SOS Online Backup offers unlimited versioning. In other words, further reasons to be cheerful, unless you really insist on having something for nothing.