Increased mobility via smartphones and tablet devices creates more interest in cloud computing, as it becomes essential to access documents from anywhere. Several cloud services have sprung up allowing you to store your files online, share them with others, or share them with yourself.
The three biggest cloud services — Google Drive, Dropbox and Box — all have Android apps allowing you to view and sometimes edit your files from your tablet or smartphone wherever your are. But there are enough differences between the cloud services to make it worth downloading and using several these apps.
The newly-branded Google Drive becomes the 800-pound gorilla by virtue of its name, but for now it is still Google Documents with a new paint jpb. But there’s promise there, and the Android app is keeping up with things. Google Drive is still built around a handful of Web apps including a word processor and spreadsheet, making it an office suite on the go. Unlike Dropbox and Box.net, you can use Google’s apps online to edit most documents, bypassing your device storage, but a good online connection is required. Google Drive gives you five gigabytes of storage space, and its ability to share documents with other Google users is intuitive.
Dropbox is still the old favorite for cloud users, and among those who must access documents from multiple computers it is still probably the best. The free account limits your storage to two gigabytes, which is plenty for text documents and photos. The Android Dropbox app is a little lacking, but adding a synchronization program like Dropsync keeps things perpetually up to date to make it the most fluid of cloud apps. While Dropbox saves a copy of all your uploaded files onto your desktop or laptop, you usually need to download them individually, as you need them, on your Android device. But this makes it easier to work on documents offline and with your own tools.
Dropbox has several incentives for users who wish to increase their storage size, and an interesting one has Dropbox giving you up to 500 megabytes of storage for automatically uploading smartphone photos. It’s a good trade-off, and it’s always smart to upload your .jpg files into the cloud so they don’t get lost in a system crash.
Box has been around a few years, but has flown under the radar. For free storage space it’s probably the best — just downloading the Android app gives you an additional 50 gigabytes — but like Dropbox, you can’t really view or work on any files unless you download them first.
Which cloud app is best? It all depends on what you plan to use it for. Each has a niche, and though Google Drive is considered to be the big Dropbox killer, this probably won’t happen.
Rather than limiting yourself to one cloud app, you can use them all and assign a specific purpose for each. Google Drive is best for sharing and working with your documents in the cloud. Dropbox, augmented with a synchronization app, is best for making the documents available to all your computers and for offline use. Use Box as an online archive to store those gobs of data that you won’t be needing every day.