Server Wars II: Attack of the Clouds

 
 


Storage has always been a static concept. Whether you are looking to put away those ancient vinyl records or decade old annual reports, storage has been viewed as a tiresome necessity dressed in a guise of unimportance. However, the growth of online storage devices is not only providing new options, but seeking to change the way we envision and use storage. Say goodbye to the dark, dingy attic because the cloud revolution will have all your files and resources at your fingertips; both literally and figuratively.

Attack of the Clouds


Finding Your Cloud

Cloud servers are a growing sector that is gaining traction among the Internet’s big boys. Therefore, users have plenty of options when looking for a cloud that fits their needs. With the possible expansion of these devices into the realm of cloud computing, it may be important to consider which systems will provide benefits beyond storage and accessibility. Also, while many can be accessed remotely through mobile devices, not all cloud services are compatible with every mobile app.

Microsoft’s SkyDrive

Microsoft’s cloud service offers the best free storage deal on the market with 7GB. SkyDrive also provides a number of economic data plans that are cheaper than many of its competitors and allows users to upload files that are 2 GB in size. SkyDrive can be accessed through Apple devices like iPads and iPhones as well as mobile devices running on Windows. Users will also appreciate the ability to create and use Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets, OneNote notebooks – all with group editing and public sharing – with built-in Bing search integration. As Microsoft plans to manage its future operating systems through cloud computing, the SkyDrive might offer added potential advantages.

Google Drive

As cloud systems are primarily online storage device, Google Drive offers some of the best storage packages and individual file options. Currently, Google Drive allows users to upload files that are 10 GB in size, five times the size of their closest competitor; Microsoft SkyDrive. Google also has the largest data plan of 16 TB for $799.99 a month; neither of their competitors comes close.

Similar to SkyDrive’s ability to integrate with Windows technology, Google Drive makes use of Google’s vast array of services, integrating Google search, Google+ and Google Docs. The service also allows for public sharing and offers optical character recognition technology, which proves quite handy when storing and editing scanned documents. Signing up with Google Drive will also expand Gmail storage to 25 GB. Google Drive works well with Android systems and an iOS version is reportedly in the works. However, there have been some questions regarding privacy as Google Drive doesn’t have an independent privacy policy and adheres to Google’s unified terms of service. Still, it should be noted that handing out permission to share resources is a necessary evil to operate any cloud system effectively. Therefore, it might not play a major role when choosing your cloud.

Apple iCloud

Apple iCloud integrates well with iOS systems available in iPads and iPhones. However, this doesn’t give it a competitive edge as almost all the top contenders are working on iOS. In fact, if accessibility and variety is vital to your organization, the iCloud won’t fit the bill due to its inflexibility. Despite not offering the best “bang for buck” deals, the iCloud is a slick and simple system to learn and use. However, with a heavy focus on iTunes and music, its lacks the level of utility required by businesses and companies and is targeted towards young users who want to access their entertainment where ever they go.

Other Contenders

While lacking the clout of Google, Apple and Microsoft, Dropbox continues to carve its own place in the cloud market. They have implemented creative means to grow their consumer base:

• Paying customers receive a gigabyte per referral and can add up an extra 32 GB. • Customers with free accounts can add half a gigabyte of space with every referral, all the way up to 18 GB (largest source of free storage). • Compatible with a range of mobile applications, including Android, iOS and BlackBerry. • Allows users to give non-Dropbox users links to individual files for easy sharing.

Amazon Cloud Drive can be viewed as an alternate for the iCloud for non-Apple users, concentrating mostly on music, books and videos all bought from Amazon.com. It offers users a healthy 5 GB of free online storage.

Is it a zero sum game?

Larry Dignan at ZDNet and Nilay Patel of The Verge don’t think so. They believe individuals and small companies will dabble on multiple cloud services; they actually recommend it. However, while individual users could possibly store all their files on free accounts across multiple platforms, business will require a greater level of commitment. The battle may boil down to space and utility, which should leave Microsoft SkyDrive and Google Drive to settle the score.

A Game Changer?

Perhaps the next great game changer is cloud computing, an Internet-based computing system where shared resources can be accessed on demand by numerous computers and remote devices. The cloud will not only store your pictures and videos on the Internet, it will run and maintain your operating system, Adobe Creative Suite and complex business software. No longer will an organization need to install customized software on every terminal, it can be installed in the cloud and accessed by all.

Thanks to its multi-tenancy, numerous businesses will be able to share a single copy of the application while also being able to customize the shared product. Companies will find it easier to integrate their resources online and in the process will streamline operations, save on cost and raising efficiency. Gaming companies have also jumped on the bandwagon, allowing users to access and play thousands of titles without purchasing copies or installing gigabytes of software.

With all these endless possibilities, cloud computing is forecasted to change the way we envision software and the Internet.

Justin Cook
This article was contributed by Justin Cook of Convurgency Inc, a performance-based firm offering SEO in Toronto, as well as technology consulting for hundreds of SMBs in Canada.

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