Though every cloud storage service wants to simplify and unify your digital life, it can seem like they're all just making things more fragmented. You have documents and maybe some photos in Drive, a mess of random files in Dropbox, and 7GB of music stored on an obscure cloud service that offered you a promotion once for 10GB free. If you really want to bring it all under one roof, or at least develop a cogent system for controlling the chaos, you need to make an informed choice so you get the features you want. And if you're trying to split off from the iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon S3 pack you have to venture out into the wild a little bit. Browse our picks below and share your favorite cloud service in the comments if you love one we missed.
For cheap storage Copy is solid. The service gives you 15GB in the cloud for free (comparable to Google Drive and pretty good compared to Dropbox's 5GB), and charges $10 a month for 250GB. Drive only gives you 200GB for the same price. Copy is also nice because it works on Android, iOS, Windows, and Linux, so you can really use it with everything. For the stingy among us, Copy has a feature called "Fair Storage" that lets you and friends or colleagues go dutch. If you're sharing a 10GB folder with someone, Copy can charge each of you for 5GB instead of the whole bill going to one person. In terms of security, Copy is made by the IT security company Barracuda, so they never use third-party servers, and all of the data has AES 256 encryption, the same encryption used by companies like AgileBits for 1Password. It's unclear whether AES is NSA-proof, but it seems to be holding up for now.
Speaking of privacy, Wuala (pronounced like voilà but with a "w") is an interesting option because all of the service's servers are in Germany, Switzerland, and France, countries with stricter privacy regulations than the U.S. against government snooping. The service also uses AES- 256 encryption and other standard protocols for signatures and integrity checks. Wuala is owned by LaCie and comes on some LaCie portables. Storage is kind of expensive at 5GB free and up to $12/month for 100GB.
The most free storage we could find comes from a basic account on ADrive, which gives you a very legit 50GB. ADrive has Android and iOS apps, online document editing through Zoho, and some features specifically targeted at making international sharing easier. There's a big drawback, though. You're getting all of that storage, but your data isn't encrypted. Repeat: no encryption, no SSL connection. Upgrading to premium, which adds standard encryption back into the mix, is $7/month for 200GB. You get what you pay for, right?
Younity's goal is to eliminate syncing from your life. Instead of worrying about which files you've stored in the cloud or which folders you have set to sync and at what times, Younity indexes whatever parts of your computer you direct it to, and then allows you to browse that index on any device. When you pick the files you want, they stream from your computer to whatever device you're on. This setup is useful and good for privacy because it means you don't need cloud storage at all, you just continue to manage the local storage on your different devices. And Younity recently added a new feature, the "Snapchat" of file sharing, that lets you share a locally stored file with someone else so they can access it but not permanently download it. The default time limit on their access is seven days, but you can set it to whatever you want. Currently Younity is Windows, OS X, and iOS only.
With only 2GB free, it seems like SpiderOak wouldn't have a lot going for it, but the draw is a big emphasis on privacy. The service provides encryption on all sides and secures the keys used for decrypting data so they aren't accessible except for data retrieval by you. The service also claims a 0.0000% margin of error for maintaing backups no matter what. As with Copy or any service using encryption methods that are included in government standards, it is possible that data may not be totally secure, but SpiderOak makes a serious effort. The service plays nice with iOS, Android, Windows, OS X, and Linux. BlackBerry and Windows Phone apps are coming soon. $10/month or $100/year for 100GB.
It might seem pretty standard, but Cubby is interesting because the service incorporates cloud storage with direct sync between devices that allows for a lot of flexibility in what files are stored where and how they are accessible. You can use "Cubby Locks" as an extra privacy measure to password protect certain files and you can use it as a backup with unlimited versioning of files you are editing or changing over time. Cubby is for Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android.
[Image: Flickr user Mattias]