Dropbox vs Microsoft SkyDrive vs Google Drive vs Apple iCloud vs Amazon Cloud Drive.

The internet hasn't just changed how we work, it's revolutionised it. Cloud storage services now enable us to securely store and access our important data online so that we can start working on a laptop or desktop PC and continue on a tablet or a smartphone.

This device independence means that we can choose how, when and where we work, confident that we can access our documents and data anytime, anywhere thanks to online storage. The question is: which is the best cloud storage service for you?

As ever, it depends what you need and what systems you currently use. The four tech giants - Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple - all have their own cloud storage services for storing and backing up your files online. And Dropbox has long been a popular solution that works just about everywhere.

However, since Microsoft lost a trademark dispute with BSkyB in July 2013, the SkyDrive name will be phased out, though the service will continue. We think it will probably be called Microsoft Drive.

Many other similar third-party tools are available too - if you have a recommendation, let us know in the comments. For now, let's compare the front-runners...

Dropbox vs SkyDrive vs Google Drive vs iCloud vs Amazon Cloud Drive: the key info

Dropbox

  • Free space: 2GB (plus up to 16GB for referrals)
  • Premium space: US$99 per year for 100GB
  • File size limit: Unlimited (via desktop app)
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, BlackBerry
  • Best for: Seamless document syncing
  • Try Dropbox

Microsoft SkyDrive

  • Free space: 7GB
  • Premium space: £32/US$50 per year for 100GB
  • File size limit: 2GB
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone
  • Best for: Windows/MS Office integration
  • Try Microsoft SkyDrive

Google Drive

  • Free space: 15GB
  • Premium space: $59.88 per year for 100GB
  • File size limit: 10GB
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
  • Best for: Storage space and web apps
  • Try Google Drive

Apple iCloud

  • Free space: 5GB
  • Premium space: £70/US$100 per year for 50GB
  • File size limit: 25MB free/250MB paid
  • Platforms: Mac, iOS, Windows
  • Best for: Heavy iTunes/Mac users
  • Try Apple iCloud

Amazon Cloud Drive

  • Free space: 5GB
  • Premium space: £32 per year for 100GB
  • File size limit: 2GB per file
  • Platforms: Mac, iOS, Android, Windows
  • Best for: Photos and music
  • Try Amazon Cloud Drive

Dropbox vs SkyDrive vs Google Drive vs iCloud vs Amazon Cloud Drive: storage space

All of the major cloud storage services offer free and premium paid storage options. But the amount of storage space you get can vary wildly. The premium space figures quoted above are only one example of several price plans available on each service.

Dropbox provides 2GB of free storage, although the Dropbox referral program gives you and any person you successfully refer to Dropbox an extra 500MB of space per referral, up to a maximum of 16GB (making 18GB in total).

Amazon's Cloud Drive and Apple's iCloud give you 5GB of space for free. If you have ever shopped with Amazon or bought a song from iTunes with an Apple ID, your storage is ready and waiting for you.

Best cloud storage: Dropbox vs SkyDrive vs Google Drive vs iCloud vs Amazon Cloud Drive
Amazon's Cloud Drive offers bare bones features

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Microsoft's SkyDrive offers 7GB-worth of space (accessed via a Microsoft account) and Google Drive sets you up with a meaty 15GB, albeit spread across Gmail, Drive and Google+ Photos (if your photos are larger than 2048 x 2048 pixels).

There are premium options available too if you need more space than the free allocation provides. Dropbox Pro offers 100GB, 200GB and 500GB storage options, while Dropbox for Business cranks that up to a roomy 1TB and above.

Microsoft's SkyDrive sells 50GB and 100GB storage plans, Amazon Cloud Drive offers a range of options from 20GB to 1TB, and Apple's iCloud has upgrades to 10GB, 20GB and 50GB.

It all feels small compared to Google Drive, which offers 100GB (US$4.99 per month) of extra space for heavy Google users, scaling all the way up to 16TB of storage (US$799.99 per month).

Dropbox vs SkyDrive vs Google Drive vs iCloud vs Amazon Cloud Drive: syncing

Free storage capacity shouldn't be the defining factor, however. Dropbox might only offer 2GB of free space, but you might find it more convenient than the 15GB offered by Google Drive.

Why? It's how these cloud storage services synchronise your data and make it accessible via multiple devices that matters.

Dropbox, SkyDrive, Amazon Cloud Drive and Google Drive all provide downloadable desktop clients for Windows and Mac computers (with Dropbox offering an official Linux tool too).

Best cloud storage: Dropbox vs SkyDrive vs Google Drive vs iCloud vs Amazon Cloud Drive
SkyDrive integrates well with MS Office and has beefed up photo sharing

Each app designates a folder on a computer's hard drive and anything you save inside it is automatically synced to the cloud and invisibly copied to other computers running the same software.