Tested: The fastest and most reliable online storage and syncing services

Two reports compare Dropbox vs. Google Drive vs. SkyDrive vs. Amazon Cloud vs. Box

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With Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, Amazon Cloud, Box, and many others, there's no lack of free cloud services for storing your files online and keeping them in sync across your devices. Beyond looking at individual features (Google Drive may be more of a magic warehouse, Dropbox a robotic filing cabinet), another important comparison point for these services is performance. Which ones sync your files fastest? Which are more reliable and less error-prone? ReadWriteWeb and Royal Pingdom both ran tests to find out.

For ReadWriteWeb, David Sobotta ran 25 sets of tests using both Windows and Mac and a variety of file sizes and types. He recorded the time it took to synch the files and which ones had issues.

The results are pretty interesting. The winner, by a landslide, for fastest syncing is Dropbox--for 56% of the tests. SkyDrive fared the worst, as the slowest to sync for 80% of the tests. Both Dropbox and Amazon Cloud finished syncing all the files, but Google Drive and SkyDrive both had at least one incomplete sync (perhaps notably, more often on the Mac).

Sobotta sums it up saying: "Dropbox and Amazon appear to be the most reliable solutions with only occasional delays. Google isn't far behind, and I can't imagine that Microsoft won't work hard to improve Skydrive - the company's subscription model depends on it."

Royal Pingdom performed a similar reliability and performance comparison last year, but with Box instead of Amazon Cloud.

Instead of measuring syncing speed, the company compared time to load a publicly shared 13Kb file. Dropbox wins again, with Google Drive only slightly behind in second place.

For reliability, Royal Pingdom measured downtime and uptime over 30 days. The only service with 100% uptime and no downtime was Box, but Google Drive only had one minute of downtime, so it was close to having a perfect reliability score. Dropbox and SkyDrive had 13 to 15 minutes (respectively) of downtime in that month, which would probably be acceptable for most people.

All of these findings, although they're small tests, could be useful if you're having difficulty choosing between all of these services. Sobotta also offers a number of recommendations for storing your files in the cloud, regardless of which service you choose to use.

One thing to note is Dropbox's speed victory in Sobotta's tests is likely due to its unique LAN sync feature. With it, Dropbox looks for files on your local area network first and syncs those files directly to computers that are on the same network, rather than having to download the file from Dropbox's servers. Syncing files between devices that aren't on the same network wouldn't be as fast.

Read more of Melanie Pinola’s Tech IT Out blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniepinola. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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