Online storage prices come down slowly — Apple still the max

Drastic price cutting has hit the online storage space, or so you may read. But, unfortunately, most of the price cutting is for big time corporate users not us little guys. Well, that’s not completely true. There have been some serious price cuts on online storage for us ordinary users since I last wrote about this back in May.

That was when Google switched from super cheap prices to only sort of cheap prices — and you had to sign up to pay monthly instead of paying once a year. Big drag. Google’s prices remain unchanged, starting at $1.20 per GB per year (excluding the free space you get).

But, the competition is heating up some. In July, Dropbox effectively halved its prices by giving you 100 GB, not just 50, for $99 a year. Excluding the 2 GB they give you free, that’s 99 cents per GB per year. And ahead of the updated Kindle Fire tablets, Amazon made a similar move, halving the price of its Cloud storage to around 56 cents per GB (excluding the 5 GB you get free).

Sugarsync has not reduced its prices since May and still sits at $2 per GB per year for starters, falling to $1.02 if you buy the maximum 250 GB plan $1.58 if you buy the maximum 100 GB plan. Apple, too, remains stuck at the high end, charging $2 per GB for additional space on iCloud (excluding the 5 GB free) — and up to a maximum of only 50 GB.

So, slight improvements — I’m not complaining — but not the all-out-war that’s taking place in the enterprise online storage market.

Finally, I’ll add that I have sampled services from Dropbox, Google Drive and Amazon Cloud on Mac and Windows computers as well as on iOS and Android devices. And I’ve used iCloud on Macs and iOS. I like Dropbox best because it just works so reliably and in the manner you expect. But there are benefits from the more integrated services. Dumping photos into my Amazon Cloud drive as a back up and seeing them sync automagically into my Kindle Fire’s photo gallery app is pretty cool. And you retain more control, or a finer level of control, over the process than with iCloud’s photostream and other Apple syncing practices.

UPDATE: Here’s a table comparing the major services

Service Free (GB) Added data (GB) Prices per year Price/Gb/year
Apple 5 10/20/50 20/40/100 $2/$2/$2
Amazon 5 15/45/95/195 10/25/50/100 $0.67/$0.56/$0.53/$0.51
Dropbox 2 98/198/498 99/199/499 $1/$1/$1
Google 5 20/95/195 30/60/120 $1.49/$0.63/$0.61
Microsoft 7 20/50/100 10/20/50 $0.50/$0.50/$0.50
SugarSync 5 25/55/95/245 50/100/150/250 $2/$1.82/$1.58/$1.02

Notes: “Added data” and “Price/GB/year” exclude free space. Prices have been rounded in some cases. Amazon and Google offer even higher data plans up into the terabytes.

The great Google storage price hike of 2012

(I wrote an updated discussion of online storage prices on December 18, 2012)

The other day, I finally saw a unicorn crossing my lawn — no, not quite. Another almost as mythical a creature appeared on my computer, however: the Google Drive. It’s a long-rumored online storage space for any kind of digital files that lives on Google servers and syncs up with a designated folder on any computer of yours that you’d like. Like Dropbox. Or Sugarsync. Or Amazon Cloud drive. Or…many others. It is Google and that’s cool.

But one less than cool bit? Since Google started letting us upload almost any kind of file you wanted to an online storage bin associated with your Google Docs account, Google has had the most amazing prices on earth. With Google Drive, prices skyrocketed overnight. And even worse, there’s no longer an option to pay for a year at a time. Desperately in need of more customer credit card numbers to feed into its Android Play store and other new services, Google Drive’s extra space can only be paid for on a month-to-month basis. That may be a smart way for Google to catch up with Amazon and Apple in the paying customer accounts department, but for me it’s just blah.

I’m probably a little extra sad because at the instant the Google Drive was announced, I looked at the pricing for extra storage and it hadn’t been changed yet. When I returned a day later, however, I saw this:

Prices for extra storage on the Google drive

Under the old system, 1 GB of extra space cost 25 cents per year no matter how much you bought. Simple and cheap. As you can see, for just $5 I had 20 GB of extra storage. But from now on, storage is about 10 cents per GB per month. For 25 GB of extra space, I’m looking at an annual cost of $29.88, or $1.20 per GB per year. For 100 GB of space under the new plan, you get a better rate — four times the space at double the cost. That’s $59.88 or about 60 cents a GB per year.

Still, it’s cheaper than what others offer and that may be why Google saw room to hike its prices. You start with 5 GB free at Google. Dropbox gives you only 2 GB free and, if you pay annually, another 48 GB for $99 a year, or $2.06 per GB. SugarSync has an annual option for 25 GB in addition to the 5 GB free that’s $49.99 a year, or $2 a GB a year for the extra storage. They go to $1.81 a GB if you buy 55 GB and $1.58 if you buy 95 GB. Amazon’s Cloud Drive gives you 5 GB free. Then it’s smoothly increasing at $1 per GB per year if you ignore that first 5 GB. If you want to be as annoying as I am and exclude that free bit, it’s equal to $1.33 per GB per year at 20 GB, $1.05 at 100 GB and $1.01 at 500 GB. Apple’s iCloud is at the high end, scaling up from 5 GB free at exactly $2 per GB per year but only up to 50 GB extra.

And of course everybody EXCEPT Google lets you pay once a year.

Amazon’s cloud drive pricier than Google but cheaper than others

Amazon announced a cool new service, or combination of services, really. The new cloud drive stores your stuff in an easy-to-access online “locker.” A related cloud music player lets you upload and download music to the locker as well as live stream any songs you’ve already uploaded. Streaming is limited to web browsers on computers and an Android phone app so far — no iPhone or iPad app.

But as far as the cloud storage goes, Amazon’s prices aren’t that great. You can get 5 GB free, but for more you pay $1/GB per year ($20 for 20 GB, $500 for 500 GB).

Google’s cloud storage, which can also hold all kinds of files, is much, much cheaper — 25 cents/GB per year ($5 for 20 GB, $125 for 500 GB).

Amazon is cheaper than some. Sugarsync is over $1 per GB unless you opt for the $250 for 250 GB plan. The cheaper plans are $50 for 30 GB ($1.67/GB), $100 for 60 GB ($1.67/GB), or $150 for 100 GB ($1.50/GB).

Apple’s MobileMe is also pretty bad, even if you exclude the $99 you pay for just 20 GB to start. Another 20 GB costs $49, or $2.45/GB — ouch.

What about DropBox? It is more expensive even with the annual payment discount. 100 GB costs $200 and 50GB cost $100. You can do the $/GB math on that one yourself, I think.

UPDATE: Michael Robert’s MP3tunes music locker service starts at $20 for 20 GB and slides down to $40 for 50 GB (80 cents/GB) and $140 for 200 GB (70 cents/GB).

Chrome browser, Pinboard site lead the list of recent changes

Spent some time housekeeping on the blog tonight, including updating the software and services in use page.

Google’s Chrome browser, version 10, has replaced an increasingly buggy Firefox. I am really digging the way extensions have their own little button row.

I’ve also noted that I had to dump Mozy for Crashplan last month after Mozy’s mega-price hike. Public bookmark keeper Delicious got dumped for not-free replacement Pinboard. Also 1Password is on my Android phone, iPad and Macs instead of old reliable Wallet, which seemed to be pretending Android didn’t exist. And 1Password needs Dropbox to sync so I’ve added a free account there.

Finally, I cut the section on instant messaging clients, which I never use much anymore. Good bye, Adium.

Living in the future, Apple style, some day

Tech journalist Harry McCracken has an excellent post up about the implications of the latest Macbook Air line. He noticed a bit in Apple’s press release that I had overlooked:

Apple® today unveiled an all new MacBook Air®, the first of a next generation of notebooks which will replace mechanical hard disks and optical drives with Internet services and solid state flash storage.

As McCracken notes, Apple is aiming to get rid of spinning platters and use all solid state memory storage sooner rather than later. That means a future with faster access to data and applications plus the “instant start-up” and sleep we already get on out iPads.

But I’m also intrigued by the reference to “Internet services” which could make the amount of storage you carry around with you much less relevant. We’ve been waiting and waiting for Apple to do something cloud-based with iTunes. Kent Anderson over at the Scholarly Kitchen blog has a good post about this today, noting some other companies like Netflix and Pandora that are moving more quickly to put the consumer at the center of their content rather than the other way around.

Amazon is leading the way with its digital video and Kindle ebook services. Both keep your content stored on Amazon’s servers so you can zap it into your local devices over and over (and for video, even watch it online anywhere with a browser). Even Amazon doesn’t let you do that with your music files, so there may be some rights issues with the record labels — that wouldn’t be a shocker.

And there is still so much more Apple could and should be doing with its MobileMe service. At $99 a year for just 20 GB of online storage (split between for email and iDisk storage), it’s no bargain. For another $49 you can bump storage up to 40 GB and up to a total of 60 GB for $99 extra, or almost $200 a year.

DropBox offers 50 GB of storage for $120. SugarSync offer 60 GB a year for $100 and 100 Gb for $150. And Google offers really, really cheap storage through GoogleDocs ($5 for 20 Gb, $100 for 400 GB and a whopping 1 TB for $256) though you can only use it through Docs, Picassa Web albums and Gmail. Amazon’s S3 is also pretty cheap ($1.80 per GB per year equal to $90 for 50 GB) and can be used in conjunction with a program like JungleDisk to mimic the auto-syncing of some of these other offerings.

So Apple is slowly moving towards a more cloud-based approach and the new MacBook Airs are a tiny step along the way. Rights holders like the record labels might be holding things back but eventually, it shouldn’t matter whether you download or stream your files, be it your latest resume, a new Batman comic or last year’s best picture winner.

p.s. if this post sounds familar, I’ve been making the same requests of Apple’s horrible MobileMe pricing for ages and last blogged about the state of online storage pricing back in January.

Google slashes price of online storage vs. Apple, others

(Update April, 2012: Google finally opened its GDrive service and promptly raised the price of storage. Doh!)

In a much-commented-upon announcement today that I first saw on Rex Hammock’s blog, Google said it would start selling online storage space for keeping any kinds of files. Previously, the company’s cloud-based storage was limited for use with specific Google apps Gmail, Google Docs and Picassa Web Albums. Here’s the explanation from the Google Docs blog of the new offering:

We’re happy to announce that over the next few weeks we will be rolling out the ability to upload, store and organize any type of file in Google Docs. With this change, you’ll be able to upload and access your files from any computer — all you need is an Internet connection.

Instead of emailing files to yourself, which is particularly difficult with large files, you can upload to Google Docs any file up to 250 MB. You’ll have 1 GB of free storage for files you don’t convert into one of the Google Docs formats (i.e. Google documents, spreadsheets, and presentations), and if you need more space, you can buy additional storage for $0.25 per GB per year. This makes it easy to backup more of your key files online, from large graphics and raw photos to unedited home videos taken on your smartphone. You might even be able to replace the USB drive you reserved for those files that are too big to send over email.

Obviously, this is good news for digital packrats everywhere. But it may be even better news for digital cheapskates. That’s because the pricing isn’t just lower than what competitors were offering — it blows them out of the water, or maybe out of the cloud in this case.

Take a simple case of storing 50 gigabytes of data. That’s about the amount of space needed to hold a good sized library of digital photos and a couple of thousand MP3 tracks. Your mileage may vary (my music library is about 25 GB and my photo library is so big it’s embarrassing). In any event, on the new Google storage platform, that would cost just $12.50 a YEAR.

How does that compare to the competition? Start with Apple’s overpriced MobileMe service. Ignoring for the sake of simplicity that you get a few other services, you only get 20 GB of storage for $99 a year and another 20 GB is going to cost you another $49. And you can buy one more 20 GB chunk to hit 60 GB for another $49 or a total of $198. To get to 50 GB, which you can’t exactly choose, let’s interpolate and call it $174. That’s almost 14 times more expensive than Google. Or put another way, for that price on Google, you could store two-thirds of a TERABYTE. We’re getting up towards Library of Congress sizes now.

Okay, well everybody loves Amazon’s S3 service. How much does that cost? 15 cents per GB per MONTH. Whoops. So 50 Gb is $7.50 a month or $90 a year. That’s about 7 times Google’s pricing. S3 also charges an additional fee for transferring data of 17 cents a GB but they’ve suddenly decided to waive that charge for uploading at least through the end of June.

What about DropBox? It’s a majorly cool service with lots of good reviews. But again, the pricing can’t compete with Google. It’s $10 a month, or $120 a year, for a 50 GB allotment. That’s almost 10 times the price of Google’s new service. SugarSync is a little better but not much at $100 a year for 60 GB (equal to about $83 adjusted down to 50 GB).

To be sure, Google’s new service may turn out to have some limits or catches that haven’t yet been disclosed. For example, files can’t be bigger than 250 MB which rules out big media pieces. And taking full advantage of the space may require other software developers to jump in and write some middleware apps (as happened with Amazon’s S3).

But so far, it looks like Google’s new service is once again resetting the playing field and pressuring prices all throughout the clouds.

UPDATE: InformationWeek has Google product manager Vijay Bangaru quoted saying this is not the mythical “GDrive” service.