How we test cloud storage
If you have a foolproof backup regime to keep your photos, videos and documents safe and accessible, you can probably use an external drive. However, if your digital safety strategy involves freaking out when you get the smartphone alert that you have no more memory, and randomly copying your photos from your phone onto USB flash drives, storing them carefully on the floor of your car, the bottom of the kitchen drawer, or your back pocket – then you may want to consider cloud storage to ensure your digital content lasts longer than the next clothes wash.
Our expert testers
With your most important files stored safely online, you don't need to panic about your laptop seizing up or your external hard drive breaking down. Even if your computer is lost or stolen, you'll still be able to access your documents or photo collection online through the cloud.
Our expert computer testers have extensive experience in working with a wide range of consumer-level computer-related technologies, because it's not just about how the computer works but also how it fits into your digital life.
How we choose what we test
It wasn't long ago that cloud computing was an area best left to large companies and corporations. However, with the advent of faster internet connections and cheap hard drives, online storage has become affordable for the rest of us.
We start by doing extensive market research to find the right services matched to the purpose. Our test is a look at the options available for online storage, not complete backing up to the cloud (even though some of these services are also available). The main focus of our test is to look at how easy it is to get your photos and video from your smartphone or desktop computer to the cloud to share and to keep safe. Security, collaboration and compatibility with various computer and mobile operating systems are also considered.
We look to include the most up-to-date and popular services available but there may be some changes to the pricing models as this is an area that can change daily.
How we test
This test is not aimed at finding you an online backup solution, as this comes with a different set of parameters to consider such as recovery, transfer file sizes and cloning features. This test is to find out the best cloud storage service for your day-to-day uploading and downloading of content such as photos and video as well as documents. Our testers look at security, ease of use on various platforms and sharing folders.
Test criteria explained
The overall performance is made up of a combination of the following:
Sharing and collaboration (15%)
We test to see how easily you can view or access your files on the cloud, without having to download them to your PC first. We also test the online-editing features.
A rating for the encryption security measures put in place by the cloud storage service.
Ease of use (40%)
An easy-to-use cloud storage service should make it simple to sync files to the cloud. We look at the effectiveness of each service on the various platforms including Windows and Mac for desktop applications as well as Android and iOS for mobile platforms.
Web browser (10%)
A rating for the features and ease of use of the cloud storage provider's web app.
Set up and installation (10%)
We test the installation process for each cloud storage service we test, including the set up of any sync boxes and folders that are installed on your computer. We also look at how easy it is to install the cloud software to your computer and get started with a new account.
We assess how well each service delivers on features such as online editing, versioning and device support.
We look at how easy it is to find help, look up FAQs and navigate through the online documentation.
Our test lab
We maintain our own lab that is up to date with the latest reference machines and calibrated measurement tools for our testers to bring you the right results.
For any testing required where we don't have the necessary in-house skill or equipment, such as for batteries, we use an external expert lab.