NextAdvisor picks its top cloud storage services for consumers

Ease of use, synchronization pushed some to the top

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Consumer and small business product review site this month launched a new category that features reviews and comparisons of cloud storage services.

NextAdvisor's editors tried seven services to determine which provided the best value and features, such as storage capacity and ease of use. You can find the rankings on the NextAdvisor website.

Cloud storage services are a subset of online backup services, which NextAdvisor has already reviewed.

Scores for the cloud storage services were based on how many devices they sync, how much storage capacity they offer and how user-friendly their interfaces are.

"We also took into account how good of a value each service was," NextAdvisor's president, Erik Larson, said in a press release. "We want to inform consumers on where they can get the most bang for their buck."

SugarSync, which charges $4.17 per month for 30GB of capacity and unlimited system backup, came out on top. NextAdvisor described SugarSync as "feature-filled," with an intuitive user interface and easy music streaming. It's "best for those who need to do a lot of file syncing," the review stated.

JustCloud came in second, and ZipCloud was third. Both charge $4.95 a month and have identical capacity. They were followed by SpiderOak, MyPCBackup, LiveDrive and Dropbox.

Dropbox, a popular brand, appeared to suffer in the rankings because it was the only service that doesn't offer backup, meaning it doesn't automatically replicate files to its cloud storage infrastructure. "[It] falls behind the rest with its lack of features and protection," NextAdvisor said in its review.

Conversely, NextAdvisor praised SugarSync not only for allowing customers to save files in the cloud, but also for enabling users to sync files across an unlimited number of computers. "You get to make sure that all of your information is always up to date and ready for you no matter where you are working from," the review stated.

NextAdvisor's editors signed up for each of the cloud storage services and used them as a consumer would -- running online backups, syncing files across multiple computers (both Mac and PC), and editing documents to test update times.

Each reviewer also accessed files through each cloud service's Web interface, and tried out mobile apps where applicable.

While cloud storage has a lot in common with online backup services, it has several other useful features. For example, backup services run in the background, storing files for recovery in case of a system or hard drive failure or theft. Cloud storage services also store files, but they are designed to make it easy to access and share the files.

"In addition to ease of access and sharing, cloud storage offers the ability to sync files across multiple devices, ensuring users have the most up-to-date files at all times," Larson said. "As Internet-connected devices, such as tablets and smartphones, continue to proliferate, we believe cloud storage services will play an increasingly important role in how people store, access and share their important information."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and healthcare IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His email address is

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