iCloud Drive: Apple’s appealing recipe for cloud storage

At WWDC 2014, the senior Vice President of software engineering at Apple, Craig Federighi, introduced iCloud Drive, the revamped cloud offering from Apple, which struggled with early offerings of cloud services. Apple is still playing catch-up with its cloud storage services, though its introduction of iCloud Drive appears to be the recipe Apple needs for success in this venture.

The importance of the ecosystem

iCloud Drive is an extension of the next generation of OS X, version 10.10 Yosemite, and the forthcoming iOS 8, although it will also interoperate with Windows via a web browser. Apple’s big bet with iCloud Drive is the ability to integrate it into the aforementioned updates to OS X and iOS, and by extension, into existing devices, such as already deployed iPhones, iMacs, and MacBooks. With this, Apple can likely sway users of third-party services to using iCloud — product integration being a key strength of the Apple ecosystem.

An important feature is that files stored in iCloud Drive are tagged and indexed and visible to Finder in exactly the same way as files stored locally. Additionally, attachments in Mail will be automatically synced to iCloud Drive through a feature called Mail Drop. All photos taken with an Apple device will automatically be backed up to iCloud.

The importance to enterprise

With this announcement, Apple has a complete document creation and collaboration suite with attached cloud storage to rival Google Docs and Drive and Microsoft Office and OneCloud (formerly SkyDrive). This is the latest piece of the puzzle to be added, after the addition of iWork for iCloud in August 2013.

Under Steve Jobs, Apple was famously disinterested in catering to corporate buyers, with Jobs reportedly calling Chief Information Officers "orifices" in 2005. Under Tim Cook, the firm has been much friendlier to enterprise users. Notable enterprise adoption has occurred in Cook’s tenure at Apple, with North American home improvement chain Lowe’s deploying iPhones with an inventory control system and project cost estimation utilities, and United Airlines replacing the frequently updated flight instruction manuals with electronic versions on iPad.

Apple made additional strides with the February 2014 update of Apple Configurator (the software used for mass deployments), which allows administrators to set up and configure devices without needing to physically interact with the device (beyond turning it on and plugging it in). This upgrade will likely keep people already inside the Apple ecosystem firmly entrenched inside it, while providing a solitary bullet point on the benefits of the Apple ecosystem for corporate purchasers and/or IT decision makers looking to migrate employees to a new ecosystem.

Ultimately, while the addition of iCloud Drive to the Apple ecosystem is one that can only work in the benefit of Apple and its users, commodity consumer cloud services are absolutely fungible. The vital point is the extent to which iCloud Drive is deeply integrated in future versions of OS X and iOS.

How competitive is the pricing?

With the ever-changing price points of data storage in the consumer cloud and enterprise cloud, figuring out how competitive the announced pricing is compared to other cloud vendors is one that takes a good hour of searching.

Here is the basic rundown of pricing. Of note, although Google Drive offers the most space for free, iCloud Drive pricing is cheapest for the 200 GB price point. This is in stark contrast to previous iCloud pricing, with a total of 55 GB costing $100/year.

Apple iCloud Drive

5 GB — free
20 GB — $0.99 monthly
200 GB — $3.99 monthly
1 TB — TBD

Google Drive

15 GB — free
100 GB — $1.99 monthly
1 TB — $9.99 monthly
10 TB (and up) — $99.99 monthly

Dropbox

2 GB — free
100 GB — $9.99 monthly
200 GB — $19.99 monthly
500 GB — $49.99 monthly
Unlimited business plan — $15 per user monthly, with a minimum of five users

Microsoft OneDrive

7 GB — free
50 GB — $25 annually
100 GB — $50 annually
200 GB — $100 annually
1 TB — $2.50 per user monthly

Box

10 GB — free
100 GB — $5 monthly
Unlimited — $15 monthly (per user, requires three users)

Google Drive Opens Price War for Online Cloud Storage Providers

Choose A Cloud Storage 300x231 Google Drive Opens Price War for Online Cloud Storage Providers

Google has made it clear for years that they’re determined to be the number one name in the cloud storage game. Google has announced a reduction in the price of their subscriptions to the service cloud storage, Google Drive, thanks to a series of infrastructure improvements.

While iCloud gives 5 GB of storage for free to all Apple device owners, Google Drive’s basic service has provided 15 GB for free since May of 2013. Specifically, the company has announced the new prices that will be set as follows – for $1.99 a month ($24 dollars a year), just $4 more than 20GB of iCloud, Google Drive users get 100GB of storage. For $9.99 a month, or $120 a year, Drive users get 1 TB of cloud storage. A $100 a year of paid iCloud service meanwhile only nets iCloud users a total of 55 GB of total storage, and Dropbox users 100 GB. These options do not eliminate the option of free storage that will remain in effect for all users with an account on the Google platform.

Google Drive isn’t only about storage; it’s also where Google productivity apps live, and it’s closely linked to its photo sharing-storage tools and Gmail, all of which share the same pool of available online storage.

With this move, Google makes it much more accessible and attractive premium services related to Google Drive winking at those users who searched for a cloud storage solution with plenty of space but without having to pay crazy.

The Cloud Storage Price War Begins

The cloud storage space has become extremely competitive in recent years, with services popping up from independent firms like Box and Mega, as well as major tech firms like Amazon, Microsoft, Google and of course Apple. They’re all fairly similar, except for of course pricing and device compatibility.

The sharp drop in Google Drive prices is a sign of strong competition in the services sector of online storage, where each platform trying to convince users to store their files in it rather than a rival. If a strong storage space is a key argument in choosing a service, the price is equally important.

For comparison, the popular cloud service Dropbox, which is used by over 200 million people, offers a free 2 GB only. The cost of storing 100 GB is $ 9.99 per month or $ 99 per year. In addition, Dropbox offers corporate tariff plan: unlimited space for groups of 5 people and costs $ 15 per user per month. Users who go with Box can get 10 GB of free storage. For $5 per month, they can get 100 GB of space. Box’s Business plan offers users 1,000 GB of storage for $15 per month per user, but there must be a minimum of three users on the plan, bringing the minimum price to $45.

Microsoft, in turn, offers a free 7 GB of space in their cloud storage. Recently, it has been renamed from SkyDrive in OneDrive. For $25 a year, Microsoft offers 50 GB extra space in addition to the free offer.

To be fair, Google’s Drive pricing was already lower than the other most popular service Dropbox, with a 100GB plan costing $4.99 per month vs. $9.99. But that extra $3 per-month savings equates out to $36 per year, making it even more attractive. Google also has the advantage of its new fleet of Chromebooks, Chromeboxes and Android devices, all of which have Google apps installed. Google’s lower cloud storage prices will also entice more people to buy Chromebooks, which will in turn eat away at yet another part of Microsoft’s business.mjhaPD-K0B4

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