Dropbox, IDrive, SkyDrive, and Google Drive

I have tried Dropbox, iDrive, SkyDrive, and Google Drive.  I was checking out file syncing.  So this what I found out.  I have a Windows desktop computer, a Windows laptop computer, and an Android mobile phone.

Dropbox, SkyDrive, and Google Drive

On the desktop side, these services pretty much do the same thing.  They create shared folders on your desktop.  You copy files to these folders and these services will upload the files on to their servers. Once uploaded, the files can be available for your phones.

What they don’t do is automatically download the files to your phones when the files have been uploaded to the servers.  On their phone apps, you have to manually download the files to your phone. This makes sense. If you want to share say 2.5GB worth of data, that would incur 2.5GB of data usage for your phone.  If there was automatic downloading, unless you have an unlimited data plan, such a download would be costly.

On the phone side, you can open the file straight from the phone app. You don’t have to look for the files in the phone file system. Let’s say you downloaded a music file to your phone. You can open the file straight from inside the app.

One concern is what happens when your phone is out-of-network. Just because the phone app sees what’s on the the server, doesn’t mean that the files will be ready to use when the phone is out-of-network.

Where they differ is amount of free storage space they provide and how their phone apps operate.

IDrive

IDrive is a different service than the other three. IDrive is a backup service and a file sharing service while the others are just a file sharing service.

IDrive starts out with 5 GB of free storage space. However, if you install the desktop app, install the phone app, follow them on Twitter, and like them on Facebook, you get 2GB more storage space.

One advantage of IDrive is that it can backup important data from your phone such as your contacts, SMS data, photos, video, call logs, calendar, and so so forth.  If you download the app to your phone and open it, click on the Backup button and you get the backup screen. Select the items that you want to backup and press the backup button.  Afterwords, you can schedule a backup, like say everyday.

There are some annoying features however. It posts a lot of notifications on your phone during backup.

I am not thrilled about the desktop app.  It has changed since I last tried it.  The app seems more solid.  There is one thing I don’t like.  I am a DSL user with a 100KB/sec upload bandwidth.  When I run iDrive, it takes up nearly all the upload bandwidth even at the lowest upload speed setting slowing down my browsing experience.  On the flip side, the upload speed on a cable connection is really, really fast.  I uploaded 1.59 GB of data in 24 minutes on a cable network.  That’s fast.

Recently, iDrive offers a file sharing service, similar to DropBox.  Just like DropBox, it creates a shared folder.

For those who are security conscientious, you can encrypt your data with a private key. This even prevents even iDrive personnel from reading your data.

You can download files to your phone. I figured out where it downloads to.  On my phone, downloads go to /storage/sdcard0/IDrive_download.

You can connect IDrive to another computer for no additional fee.

At the time of this writing, you can get 50 GB of backup storage plus 50 GB of file sharing storage for $0.99/year.

Dropbox

Dropbox offers 2.5GB of free storage space.

You can download files from the Dropbox app to your phone file system. Let’s say you have an external flash on your phone and it contains all your music files. You can copy files from Dropbox phone app to your external flash.

One advantage of Dropbox is that the app can backup your photos and videos from your phone automatically.  When you take a picture, the app automatically queues the new photo for backup.  Video is a different story.  If, I think, the file is greater than 25MB in size, like most video, Dropbox will not upload the file if the phone is connected to a cellular network.  However, if the phone is connected to a Wifi network, Dropbox will upload it.

One annoying feature is that the phone app will not transfer files to the server if the battery is low. This seems reasonable but in my case the app would not transfer files when the battery is 29% full.

When I connected Dropbox to a second computer in addition to connecting to a phone, I receive 48 GB of bonus space for 24 months on top of my 2.5 GB free space for a total of 50.75 GB of space (I don’t know where the 0.25 GB of space came from).

On your desktop, you can sort of select a folder for Dropbox to upload.  If you right-click on a folder you can see one of two options. Either Send To Dropbox which means copying to the Dropbox foler or Move To Dropbox which means moving files to Dropbox folder.  In either case, your either copying or moving files.  Unlike IDrive, you cannot select a folder for Dropbox to backup without having to copy or move them.

SkyDrive

SkyDrive offers 7GB of free storage space.

You can download files to your phone file system.  It took me awhile to find where the app downloads the file. The app doesn’t tell you where the download directory is.  On my phone, the download directory is located at /storage/sdcard0/SkyDrive/downloads.

The SkyDrive app can scan your phone for pictures and copy them to the phone app but you have to select individual pictures.  There is no select all option.  You cannot select a folder containing the pictures.  This could be a problem if you have say 1000 pictures on your phone.  You would to manually select a 1000 pictures in order to upload them to the server.

Google Drive

One of the nice things about Google Drive is that you get 15GB of free space.

Unlike Dropbox, I haven’t figured out a way to save files from the Drive app to the phone file system.  Let’s say you have an external flash on your phone and it contains all your music files.  I haven’t figured out a way to save files from the Drive app to external flash.  You can upload files from the phone file system to the Drive app, but not the other way around.

One feature is that you can make your files available when your phone is offline. You have to select that option for each file to make that happen.

You can also specify which Google user has access to your file.

Testing

One test I used was to copy about 50 MB of data to all four apps on the desktop and see how long it takes to upload the files to their servers. They were three music files.

Dropbox finished in about 9 minutes. IDrive finished in about 15 minutes. SkyDrive and Drive finished in about 27 minutes.

Conclusion

I ended up going with Dropbox.  Dropbox seems to do all what SkyDrive and Drive can do and then some.  Dropbox has the advantage of automatically uploading new pictures from the phone to their server when a new picture is taken.  I don’t have to take the extra step of manually uploading new pictures to the apps after taking a new picture.  Dropbox gave me 50.75 GB of free space for two years which gives me the capability to save large videos.

I also went with IDrive.  I use it as a backup service.  I am still experimenting with it.  I  backup documents that are on my computers.  I just need to reorganize my files.  You don’t really want IDrive to backup the Documents folder because the Documents folder may contain much more than documents such as application data.   Just need to create a backup folder, put documents in there, and then back it up.

If you intend to move large amounts of data between your desktop and phone, you are better off connecting your phone to your computer via USB and move files using your file manager.  This is a whole lot faster than using a file sharing service.

None of these products syncs your calendar and contacts to say Microsoft Outlook.

Also note that Dropbox and IDrive can take up considerable data usage.  Before using Dropbox and IDrive, I was averaging about 2 GB per month.  Now I am using about 3.5 GB per month.

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