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There are a variety of cloud storage options including Apple iCloud, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive. This document describes a few common ways to use these services.

OPTION #1 — Web Only

An advantage of using a web interface for a cloud service is that no special software needs to be installed. When you want to share a large file or group of files with someone, you can upload them to a folder in the cloud service and then generate a share link you can give to others for access.

OPTION #2 — Limited Synchronization

If you use the software available for synchronizing files to the cloud, you can click and drag files on your computer into the cloud synched folder and the files will automatically be copied to the cloud storage. This is a convenient and familiar way to work with files.

Depending on your needs, the free amount of storage and features may be sufficient for your purposes.

OPTION #3 — Full Synchronization

When you install software for a cloud service you will likely be asked if you want to synchronize all your files, or only select folders and files. The advantage of full synchronization is that it serves as a form of backup and you’ll be reassured to know that all your files are duplicated in the cloud.

This option typically requires more cloud storage capacity because you’ll be uploading many files, and this extra storage capacity can cost about $10 per month depending on the service you choose.

Given the cost of extra storage, you probably would only choose this option with one cloud storage provider. You could still use Option #1 and Option #2 with other service providers.

If you use full synchronization with several services, this can slow down your computer because it will be continuously checking for additions and changes. It’s best to choose just one service for full synchronization.


Some services, like Apple iCloud or Microsoft OneDrive, if enabled for full synchronization, may result in files being in the cloud that aren’t stored locally due to space constraints on your local drive.

When Microsoft OneDrive is enabled, in most cases it will prevent files from being backed up by Windows backup software. If you want a local backup of files, you’ll need to manually copy them to an external drive or use third party backup software or cloud backups.

Which Service to Use

Because accounts are free for limited use, it’s helpful to have an account with any of the services you frequently access for sharing files with others.

If you’re trying to decide on a primary service to use with full synchronization, choose one that’s common to the systems you use most frequently.

If you use mostly Apple computers and devices, use iCloud. If you are a Windows computer user, you may want to consider Microsoft OneDrive.

Google Drive and Google One service are good for people who use Google services like Google Docs and Google Photos. Also, if you use an Android smartphone like Samsung, Motorola, or LG, having extra Google storage helps.