When we hear about cloud storage we tend to think about Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and the likes. It seems like there was a bunch of different providers that popped up in a hurry there for a while.
Finding one that offers everything you need is another story though especially if you are seeking a free service. A lot of the ones I heard about in the past have changed a bit now. Some are no longer free, and others have imposed limitations on free accounts.
For free I don’t really expect to have all the bells and whistles that a paid account holder would have. So, I can’t really complain too much about restrictions or limitations.
So how fast are they?
The majority of the ones out there will be as fast as your internet connection speed allows you to download. Even if you happen to have a speedy 100 Mbit connection.
I should point out that a lot of people think that their internet speed is in Megabytes per second and that they are the same. This isn’t true. A Megabit and a Megabyte are different. You would need to divide the number in Megabits by 8 to convert it to Megabytes. That means a 100 Mbit connection would be 12.5 Megabytes per second assuming you could actually hit the maximum speed. (100 / 8 = 12.5) A 10 Mbit per second connection would be 1.25 Megabytes per second. (10 / 8 = 1.25) A 5 Mbit per second would be less than 1 Megabyte so you convert it down to Kilobytes per second. (5 x 1024 (5120 kilobits) / 8 = 640 kilobytes.
You would really need to run a download test from a cloud provider with a connection that is much faster than 100 Mbit per second like 1 Gbit. I know what you are thinking where are you going to find one of those to test with right?
With a VPS or Dedicated server that happens to be plugged into one.
It just so happens that I have a VPS on a shared 1 Gbit connection. Now I don’t know how many others it’s shared with, or what kind of other sites happen to be on this thing, but it is definitely much faster than a 100 Mbit server.
I used a 70 MB compressed archive for the tests. I uploaded it to each of the following:
Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Copy.
Then, I used wget to retrieve the file from each of the above providers to my VPS server.
I could have used a larger file for testing, but I rarely need to download something larger than that from a cloud provider.
So, how do they rate in terms of transfer speed?
1 – Google Drive by far had the fastest download/transfer speed at up to 50 Megabytes per second (Yes – That is Megabytes not Megabits), which would be around 400 Megabits per second.
That is less than 2 seconds to get the 70 MB file. On top of it being the fastest it was also the most consistent. It’s possible that my VPS server happened to be located relatively close to the data center where my Google Drive file was located though.
2 – Microsoft OneDrive hit 15 Megabytes per second consistently.
3 – Dropbox varied from around 5 Megabytes per second up to a maximum of 20. There wasn’t really a number that it hit consistently.
4 – Copy was similar to Dropbox. It was up and down from one test to the next, and didn’t really hit a specific number consistently either. The majority of the time it was in the 5 Megabytes per second to 18 range. I would rate it slightly slower than what I saw with Dropbox, but not much.
Other observations to note:
Dropbox was the only one that worked without warnings or errors when using wget. All of the others I got SSL certificate warnings, and had to use the following format in order to get them to work:
wget –no-check-certificate https://path/to/file
Microsoft OneDrive had some really strange redirecting. The download link provide to me in my account was redirected to another location, and that one redirected to another.
It also had some form of wait or timeout before I could download the same file again. I don’t know if it is based on per file(s)/per short time period, or a combination of things. All I know is that when I tried to wget the file again it just sat there doing nothing. After waiting 30+ seconds I gave up and killed the process because it doesn’t take that long for wget to start doing its thing. After waiting 3-5 minutes I could get the file again. None of the others I test did this, only OneDrive.
What about bandwidth usage?
The only one that seems to be clear and up front about how much bandwidth you are allowed to use is Dropbox. They clearly state under the Traffic Limit Section that free accounts can use 20 GBs or 100,000 downloads per day (more for paid accounts). However, there are quite a few articles out there that claim Dropbox will ban your files before you come anywhere near that. Whether these are true statements or not I couldn’t tell you for sure. I have never had a problem, but I don’t use that much bandwidth.
I did find a service called Orangedox that can be used to monitor your Dropbox downloads, which would give you a better idea of how much bandwidth you are using if you are concerned about going over. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s worth mentioning and looking into.
The one and only post I could find about Copy.com’s allowed bandwidth use was a Facebook question that they replied to stating it was unlimited, but that was from May 3, 2013. Things could have changed since then.
I couldn’t find any specific details about Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive bandwidth. A Wikipedia page titled: “Comparison of file hosting services” suggests both are unlimited, but citation needed for Google Drive.
I searched up and down for specific numbers without any luck for both. I did find a lot of conflicting information about Google Drive though. Some folks claimed that it was unlimited, and others said technically it is a Google App so it would fall under the Google App Bandwidth limits found here:
If that’s true it would be kind of limited.
Another really neat cloud storage provider I tried while testing the ones listed above was Synaptop.
According to the Wikipedia page Synaptop is supposed to provide direct access to files and no bandwidth limits. However, after signing up I couldn’t figure out how to share one publicly.
It is a very cool service though. It even has FTP abilities for free accounts. So, you could potentially create an FTP in your hosting account, and configure Synaptop to connect to it. That way you could backup files (.zip/gzip/bzip/tar/etc.) in your hosting account and quickly transfer them over to Synaptop via the FTP feature.
On top of that it also has Dropbox integration. So, you could connect your Dropbox account to Synaptop and push/pull files back and forth between the two. Instead of downloading a hosting backup to your personal home computer you could use Synaptop to transfer them over FTP, and then copy it to Dropbox as well. Sort of a double/triple backup (if you count the one in your hosting account). You probably wouldn’t even need to download them to your computer at all because if you pushed your backup to Dropbox and you have the Dropbox App on your computer it would sync out to your computer anyway (so there’s your potential 4th backup).
It has a lot of features, Apps, and extra’s that I don’t even know what all they do, but like I said this is a really cool service for free.
It would appear that the site is based on flash programming of some kind, which doesn’t seem to work as well with Internet Explorer, but I have no problems using it with Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.
It’s worth checking out in your spare time for free.