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How to use Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, or iCloud

How to use Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, or iCloud
(Image credit: Microsoft/Google/Dropbox/Apple)

Cloud storage was once considered less reliable than physical storage, but not anymore. Nowadays, individuals and businesses both happily store their essential documents and personal data on “the cloud.”

A big advantage of cloud storage is that you can access personal documents from any device with an internet connection. Important information isn’t bound to one physical desktop, which is especially useful for teams who collaborate on projects. 

The market is saturated with options for cloud storage, and it can be difficult to decide which one will best serve the needs of you or your business. In this article, we’ll explain how to use Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, or iCloud. When you see these cloud storage solutions’ capabilities, you should be able to decide which one is right for you.

How to use Dropbox: Preparation

Decide what tier plan you want. Most individuals will be fine on the free plan, which allows you to store 2GB. However, if you’re a Freelancer using Dropbox for work, you’ll likely need the Personal Plan, which costs $9.99 per month and allows for 2,000 GB of storage. Businesses will likely need the Professional Plan, which costs $16.58 per month, gives you 3,000 GB of storage, and allows access from unlimited devices.

Step 1: Choose where you’ll use Dropbox

cloud storage

Download the Dropbox app to effortlessly upload files from your laptop or desktop (Image credit: Dropbox)

Sign up and then decide which devices you’re going to need Dropbox on. Dropbox allows you to store files on the cloud, then view them via a web browser, from your computer/laptop’s desktop, or via the mobile application. We’d advise you to download Dropbox on your desktop/laptop, so your files synchronize automatically. 

If you want to use Dropbox on your laptop/desktop or cell, download the relevant application and log in to your account.

Step 2: Add content & tools

cloud storage

Add applications, including the G Suite, to share cloud content inside Dropbox (Image credit: Dropbox)

Dropbox’s desktop application integrates with your Windows system tray or macOS menu, so you can save content to Dropbox as easily as you would your personal computer. 

Dropbox integrates with cloud content applications, including G Suite and Office 365, so they’re saved alongside all your other files in Dropbox. This allows you to keep track of all your content in one place, something which business users consider invaluable.

Step 3: Set security measures

cloud storage

Dropbox has multiple layers of security but businesses should take additional steps to protect their files from insider threats (Image credit: Dropbox)

Business users can alter the privacy settings on individual Dropbox folders to let the whole team or only specific members access certain files. 

Use Dropbox Security to check which devices are active on your account or if any third-party applications you haven’t approved have access, and remove them if necessary.

How to use OneDrive: Preparation

OneDrive is pre-installed on all Windows 10 devices, so is the natural choice for Windows users. You can download OneDrive on a Mac, but it’s unlikely Mac users would choose this service above Dropbox unless they’re working for/with an organization that keeps its content on OneDrive. 

OneDrive is completely integrated with MicrosoftTeams, so is an excellent application for remote offices and distance learning programs. However, business users should be aware that they must have some kind of Office 365 subscription before using OneDrive.

Step 1: Install and configure

cloud storage

Mac, mobile, and pre-2016 Windows users will need to download and synchronize OneDrive (Image credit: Microsoft)

If you intend to use OneDrive on a Mac or mobile device, you must download the OneDrive application, which allows you to synchronize files instantly from your menu bar or system tray. Windows users on pre-2016 versions of Windows will have to install and configure the app on their devices.

Step 2: Choose how you share files

cloud storage

Use the OneDrive admin center to decide who in your organization can access files (Image credit: Microsoft)

Most individuals will never have to tinker with the sharing options unless they want to enable link sharing files, but business users often want to hide some files from certain employees.

From the admin center, you can choose on what devices you want your employees to access OneDrive, prohibit link sharing outside the organization, and restrict access to files or folders.

Step 3: Learn how to maximize OneDrive’s potential

cloud storage

A little training helps you get the most out of OneDrive (Image credit: Microsoft)

OneDrive encourages business users to train their staff on how to use OneDrive to get the most from the application. One example of a hidden but very useful feature is that OneDrive allows you to share files with other team members of MicrosoftTeams or Outlook as though they’re email attachments, and allow for live editing. If you’ve sent an email with an attachment, but realize the attachment needs updating after it’s been sent, the update will automatically synchronize so the viewer will receive the most recent version of the attachment. 

Training videos are available on Microsoft OneDrive’s website, and even personal users will benefit from learning the extent of OneDrive’s capabilities.

How to use Google Drive: Preparation

Google Drive is free for individual users but has recently been rebranded as Google Workspace for businesses. Business users can choose between four plans, the most expensive of which is by quote, and the least expensive ($6.00 per month) of which only allows for 30GB of storage per user.

Most businesses will favor the Business Standard plan ($12.00 per month), which accommodates 150 users with 2TB of storage per person, or the Business Plus plan ($25.00 per month) for 250 users with 5TB storage per person.

Step 1: Upload files to drives

cloud storage

Shared drives automatically synchronize files so all team members are updated (Image credit: Google)

Any type of file can be uploaded to your Google Drive. Windows Office files are automatically converted into the equivalent G Suite/Google Workspace format so you work on them via the Google Workspace cloud. All files are scanned for viruses as they’re uploaded.

Step 2: Set sharing and viewing permissions

cloud storage

Alter access permissions to protect your organization’s data from human error or insider threats (Image credit: Google)

Elect an administrator to decide what files/folders members of your organization can see. The administrator can edit individual permissions so files can’t be seen by certain members or shared outside your organization, if that’s what you choose.

Individual users can choose whether to enable link sharing on documents, share with a specific address, or keep documents private to them. 

Sharing/viewing permissions can be edited on all types of Google Drive files, including Docs, Sheets, Slides, Maps, and Folders.

Step 3: Edit offline access permissions

cloud storage

Choose how members of your organization use content when offline (Image credit: Google)

Offline access is automatically available on all business Google Drive accounts and is not freely available for individual users. Allow members of your organization to disable offline access in case they’re working on older devices with limited data storage. Administrators can disable offline access remotely in case of employees leaving or data breaches.

How to use iCloud: Preparation

iCloud was designed for personal use, so those with a Mac desktop/laptop, iPhone, and/or iPad could enjoy the convenience of their personal data (their music, notes, photos, etc.) synced across devices. 

Because it wasn’t designed with business users in mind, even with Apple’s most expensive plan ($9.99 a month), you cannot integrate iCloud with Windows or Google Workspace.

Step 1: Choose pricing plan

cloud storage

iCloud pricing varies from country to country but is roughly equivalent in value (Image credit: iCloud)

We’d advise those first trying iCloud to use the cheapest plan possible ($0.99 per month) until they run out of data. The majority of users won’t need more than 50GB for personal storage of photos, notes and calendar information.

We recommend that you only upgrade your iCloud plan to the 200GB ($2.99 per month) or 2TB ($9.99 per month) plans when you’re notified by Apple that you need more data, as soon as you purchase a plan your cloud storage updates automatically.

Step 2: Choose the content you want to sync

cloud storage

iCloud was designed for Apple users to store their personal data and content (Image credit: Apple)

iCloud is automatically enabled on Mac devices. Once you’ve signed into your account, head to System Preferences (from your desktop, cell or iPad) and decide what content/data you want to save on the cloud. 

When you’ve what you want to synchronize, content including messages, photos, music downloads, voice notes, notes, calendar appointments and emails will automatically synchronize across devices. iCloud will simply quietly run in the background after these two steps.

Summary

Among all cloud storage tools, Dropbox best integrates with other applications, including Google Workspace and Microsoft Office Suites. Dropbox reviews praise the tool for its seamless integrations and ease of use. 

Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive are both attempting to be total suites for business users, encompassing communications and workflow management in addition to data storage. If you want a complete business suite, whether you prefer Google Drive or Microsoft Office is down to personal preference, as their capabilities are equivalent. 

iCloud is almost essential for a modern Mac user and protects data loss in instances where devices are damaged or broken. However, as this iCloud Review correctly observes, iCloud’s inability to work with other operating systems is its fatal flaw.