The information below is likely to change over time. This article was originally written March 2012. It reflects our experiences with various products. Those experiences may differ from user to user. Cloud service features are quickly growing and developing, so this article will soon be out of date.

MS Exchange [as of March 2012]

Pros:

  • The most comprehensive system - easy to setup on Windows Outlook, Androids, iPhone, iPads and macs
  • Well established in the industry
  • Good for all known devices including Windows, Android, iPhone, iPad, mac.
  • Easy sharing contact lists and calendars to co-workers.

Cons:

  • Price - at $140/year per mailbox
  • No cloud storage

Google Apps (Cloud) [update May 2012]

For more details, visit our Google Cloud and Apps page.

Google Apps Mail and Calendar are good services. They offer an IMAP email service with 10GB (or 25GB for Business). Keep in mind IMAP does not sync contacts. However if you have the right third party plug-in, Google contacts and Calendars can often be shared. Mozzilla Thunderbird works well with the Google IMAP service with synced Google Calendar and Contacts - see Thunderbird and Gmail Setup Tips

Google lauched Google Drive in Australian on the 25th April 2012. Its a true cloud storage system to compete with Drop Box. We are still in the process of testing the product over the long term.

Pros:

  • You get 5GB free.
  • Google Drive is designed for teams and collaboration. With the combination of Drive and Docs - teams will be able docs online without additional software.
  • Currently there is no iOS (iPhone / iPad) support - but this is coming (apparently).

Cons:

  • The phone and email support was poor. Phone support was on a bad quality Voip line where we couldn't actually hear a clear word from the support person. In our experience, Google's Support personnel is not fully trained and did not understand the Google products and their limitations.
  • The domain superuser has a very limited control with users documents access privileges.
  • For Google Video "users are not permitted to share videos with people outside of your Google Apps account". So if you upload a video, the general public cannot see it.
  • Google Drive does not sync over the LAN - costing Internet bandwidth.

TeamViewer [as of March 2012]

With Teamviewer you can connect to any desktop or computer using their VPN technology. It is fantastic for passing through firewalls.

This works well when both computers are on fast networks. It is not so good for mobile devices that move into bad reception areas.

Desktop applications working through the VPN will probably work slower. It is not recommended to work this way, for fear that you may loose connection in the middle of writing a file.

Teamviewer is free for non commercial use - but has a nag screen. It costs $699 per user for a "lifetime licence" - which is really for the lifetime of that major revision (ie: its not your own human lifetime). We found that the program will move to a major update after about a year - costing $200 to upgrade the licence.

For more info: http://www.teamviewer.com

Drop Box [as of March 2012]

Drop box is a multi platform tool that syncs files from the Dropbox cloud to your desktop. Dropbox works with Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad, iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry.

We found this to be a good tool for small businesses. Mobile devices can sync when in the office - and then be used away - even when they cannot connect to the Internet or are offline.

The files are seen on the desktop like any other file. Any program can open them.

Dropfiles files on the local computer will get backed up like any other file during a backup.

Dropbox stores previous versions of the files for 30 days, which can be previewed or restored from the Dropbox website. This is very handy if you overwite your file with some changes and want to revert back - or if you accidentally deleted a file. Delete file history does not count toward your storage quota. For an extra $39/year Dropbox Pro accounst can get the PackRat addon that keeps deleetd files indefinately.

It is smart enough to keep both copies if there is a conflict with syncing. They are named with the user so they can be easily identified.

Drop box uses something called "LAN sync" that speeds syncing dramatically when the file exists on your Local Area Network (LAN). This may reduce the bandwidth through your ISP. More info on LAN sync here: https://www.dropbox.com/help/137

You get 2GB free, with 250MB for every person you invite. For US$99/year per person you can get 50GB. If you are sharing files - the quota is counted on BOTH user accounts.  

With Dropbox for Teams, administrators get features including centralized billing, phone support, and controls allowing them to add or delete users. Dropbox for Teams is priced at US$795/year for five users, with additional seats available for US$125 each. The base plan includes 1,000 GB of storage, and each additional seat comes with 200 GB.

Benefits of Dropbox over Google Drive:

  • Dropbox has LAN sync which significantly reduces internet bandwidth for computers with a local network (ie: in the office).
  • Dropbox Pro accounts with PackRat keeps deleted files indefinately without contributing to the storage quota.

Click here to signup for Dropbox

More info: https://www.dropbox.com/

Cons

  • Consumer of internet bandwidth - particularly when first syncing from the Internet. Essentially every file can be duplicated on every device, and duplicated then again for every shared user's device. But this is what makes it good for offline and mobile use. However, unlike Google Drive and Skydrive, it has a LAN syc capability that will reduce the internet bandwidth useage.
  • Not suitable when working with large files (ie 1GB files) as they will take a long time to sync (3hrs in one of our tested cases with our standard ADSL2+ internet connection).

Microsoft's Sky Drive

Skydrive was upgraded April 24th 2012.

You can get 7GB of free storage with Skydrive.

Co-workers can work on MSOffice documents at the same time.

Requires a Windows live ID login.

We haven't fully tested Sky Drive and so we cann't give a full recommendation.

It one of the only cloud services that work on Windows phones.

More info: http://explore.live.com/skydrive 

Cons

  • Cannot selectively download files - which uses up internet bandwidth. This particularly the case if you have multiple devices.
  • Does not work on Android Devices

Apple's iCloud [as of March 2012]

You get 5GB of storage for Free. 55GB costs AU$105.

From what we have seen, iCloud appears to be targeted for personal use rather than for co-workers and businesses. For that reason, at this moment of time, we wouldn't recommend it for businesses.

Cons

  • Apple doesn't offer a service level agreement - so there is no guarantee on uptime. MobileMe (the iCloud predecessor) was plagued with reliability issues in 2008.
  • Requires an Apple ID - which means you need to give Apple your credit card details.
  • All of Apple’s online accounts are based off an “Apple ID”, which is unique to each user. Currently there is no way to group or otherwise manage IDs, the first step towards sharing iCloud resources within a business.
  • No Business domain support (like mail.yourbusiness.com.au)
  • No Group storage, or group admin to control all the data.
  • Big consumer of internet bandwidth

More info: http://www.apple.com/au/icloud/

Further Comparisions:

http://www.geek.com/articles/geek-pick/google-drive-vs-skydrive-vs-dropbox-20120424/

 

Recommendations

For small business with Android and iOS mobile devices...

  • Dropbox for files
  • MS Exchange service for Email, Calendar and Contacts
  • Use Outlook for Windows and Mac's
  • Use iPhone native email, Android native mail.

A cheaper solution, less reliable, less support...

  • Dropbox for files
  • GMail service for Email, Calendar and Contacts. Free Google Apps will do for under 10 users.
  • Use Mozzilla Thunderbird for Windows and Macs with third party connection tools. Connect to Gmail's IMAP service.
  • Use iPhone native email or download GMail app.
  • Use Android native mail which automatically hooks into the GMail service for Email, Calendar and Contacts

Get a drop box account here...

logo dropbox

http://support.google.com/accounts/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=188007