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Online storage reviews

Get your head in the cloud with our review of 12 popular data storage and synchronisation services.
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  • Cloud services store your data online so you can access it from other computing devices.
  • Where and how securely files are stored is important.
  • Cloud sync services duplicate your files but not like a backup program/service.
Cloud storage services are designed for convenience and peace of mind. They offer anywhere-access of your files via smartphone, tablet, laptop and desktop. In doing so, they put a copy of your files on secure remote file servers via the internet, effectively giving you a backup that protects against data loss.

But does cloud storage have a darker lining? Concerns about data security and privacy threaten to rain on the parade. We look at these 12 popular services that will sync your data across desktop and mobile devices:

After our testing had concluded, Microsoft announced a name change for their cloud service from SkyDrive to OneDrive. At the time of writing little information was available and a launch date had not been released. Meanwhile SkyDrive continues to operate and has remained in our test as a result. Click here for more information on OneDrive.

Video: Pros and cons of the complex world of cloud storage services

We get into the cloud and check out data storage and synchronisation services.

How do they work?

These services come in a variety of flavors but our tests specifically looks at those that synchronise (sync) your data to the cloud and across online devices (tablets, laptops, smartphones etc). These services automatically duplicate and update your files across multiple devices. They do this by installing a “hot folder” on your desktop, that communicates with one or more servers run by the cloud service provider. All files stored in the hot folder can be accessed via a web portal linked to that account. Most services allow only one sync folder but some such as Cubby and CloudMe  let you select several folders you want to sync to the external servers. If, for example, you turn your computer’s My Documents folder into a hot folder, every file you store in My Documents will sync to the cloud. In most cases, the hot folder(s) will automatically synchronise when new content is added.

How we test

Ease of use: is evaluated on desktop and mobile platforms. We examined the difficulty in downloading and installing desktop user (client) software, the quality of help services, navigation, folder structure and the ease of use in moving files between folders. Services with high ease of use scores offered a simple installation process, comprehensive tutorials, FAQs or help services and a clear interface that was easy to navigate.

We tested the upload and download performance of each service by recording the time required to upload and download 100MB of data, but this did not contribute to the final score. Our results found that most services on test transferred data at a similar rate, between 28 to 34 minutes when uploading and three to three minutes 20 seconds when downloading. The only exception was Wuala, which took seven minutes 28 seconds to download. These results should be used as a general indication only, as performance will vary depending on the time of day and your internet connection speed.

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